This venomous frog has killer spines on its head

Aug 6th, 2015 Amazing 1 min read

When Carlos Jared picked up a little frog hiding in the scrublands of the Brazilian Caatinga, he didn’t expect to be hurt. And he didn’t expect an intense pain radiating up his arm for the next five hours. “It took me a long time to realise that the pain had a relationship with the careless collection of these animals,” he recalls. Now he understands why….

Japanese Oakblue with its attendant ants

Caterpillar drugs ants to turn them into zombie bodyguards

Jul 31st, 2015 Interactions 1 min read

Kill, Fido! Docile ants become aggressive guard dogs after a secret signal from their caterpillar overlord. The idea turns on its head the assumption that the two species exchange favours in an even-handed relationship. The caterpillars of the Japanese oakblue butterfly (Narathura japonica) grow up wrapped inside leaves on oak trees. To protect themselves against predators like spiders and wasps, they attract ant bodyguards, Pristomyrmex punctatus, with…

Plant coats itself in dead bodies to defend against pests

Jul 24th, 2015 Interactions 1 min read

The serpentine columbine has found an elaborate way to protect itself from predators. The sticky herb is a favorite snack of Heliothis phloxiphaga moth larvae, which munch its buds, flowers, and fruits. But instead of trying to attack the creepy-crawlies directly, the columbine sends out a chemical signal that attracts dragonflies, beetles, and other insects. When these bugs land on the plant, they get stuck on its…

Does fishing make corals sick?

Jul 20th, 2015 Conservation 1 min read

Coral reefs, teeming with life, are home to vibrant fish communities — which makes them extremely attractive places to go fishing. However, fishing in reefs may injure corals, which in turn allows disease to fester, a recent study on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef reports. Coral disease is a major problem for reefs around the world. When a coral is battling an infection, its growth rate,…

Cushion plants harbour tiny mountain worlds inside

Jul 8th, 2015 Interactions 1 min read

They look like comfy cushions from the outside, but inside they contain mini-ecosystems, sheltered from the harsh mountain environment around them. One of the best ways for mountain plants to maximise their chances of survival in extremes of wind and temperature is to form a dome shape. Hundreds of species do it, including the two-flower cinquefoil (Potentilla biflora, pictured below). Now it appears that many…