Wildlife findings

SOUTH AMERICAN ORIGIN FOR ACRIDIDAE

Posted: Feb 7, 2019

Photo: David Rentz

A team of researchers at Texas A&M University and the Museo de La Plata, Argentina, has determined that one of the most widespread grasshopper lineages likely originated not in Africa, as previously believed, but in South America. Following a decades-long genetic analysis of DNA from 142 grasshopper species in 22 countries, the researchers inferred evolutionary pathways for the largest taxonomic grasshopper family, the Acrididae. Acrididae includes some 6700 species, including over 500 Australian grasshopper species. By analysing nucleotide sequences of both nuclear and mitochondrial genomes, the team found that grasshoppers within Acrididae evolved from a common ...

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‘NEW TO NATURE’ SHRUB STRUCTURE

Posted: Feb 7, 2019

Photo: Andreas Lambrianides

Certain plants contain complex organic molecules that attract the attention of chemists. In June 2018, a team from Kanazawa University, Japan, revealed that the essential oil of the red-fruited laurel (Cryptocarya laevigata, above) – a little-studied eastern Australian rainforest endemic – has an oddly novel molecular structure previously unknown in a natural product. Oil from the plant’s leaves and twigs is made up of a unique nine-membered carbon ‘spiro-nonene’, which chemists believe is configured in an entirely new way. C. laevigata oil also contains six new lactones configured in cyclic esters – compounds which give off ...

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BREAKTHROUGH FOR NATIVE FISH SURVIVAL

Posted: Feb 7, 2019

Photo: Nicolas Rakotopare

Many Australian freshwater fish species are in decline, with some populations in the Murray-Darling Basin estimated to be 10% of what they were prior to European settlement. Culverts, dams, and weirs play a role in dwindling fish numbers by fragmenting fish habitat and diverting or blockading flow, impeding a fish’s ability to migrate and evade predators. Culverts, especially, force water into a confined space, increasing flow velocity and presenting a barrier for fish that cannot swim fast or for long in currents. Small-bodied and/or juvenile fish are most at risk. Dr Jabin Watson, from the University ...

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THE KOALA’S ANCIENT VIRAL BATTLES REVEALED

Posted: Feb 7, 2019

Photo: Sharon Wormleaton

Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) are fragments of degraded DNA (‘junk DNA’) from retroviruses and are mostly harmless. Having invaded the host’s body long ago, over time they become incorporated into the host’s germline and then hijack the DNA-replicating process to make more copies of themselves. At first, ERVs may still be virulent, but over time, they stop coding for diseases and become inert. Almost all known ERVs invaded their hosts millions of years ago, but the koala retrovirus (KoRV) is still relatively young, with invasion taking place within the last 50,000 years. An individual koala can ...

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WEEDS DISPLACE KELP WHEN CO2 IS HIGH

Posted: Sep 5, 2018

Photo: John Turnbull

New research by Prof. Sean Connell and an international team from Europe, Canada, the USA, and Hong Kong has found that the higher carbon dioxide levels predicted for our oceans will favour subordinate weedy plants over formerly dominant, more ecologically valuable kelp forests. Disturbances to ecosystems, such as increasing ocean acidification from higher CO2 levels, often create opportunities for particular organisms to thrive at the expense of others. As weedy species are better able to exploit carbon as a nutrient, they will grow faster than their natural predators (sea urchins) can consume them, displacing more biodiverse ...

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