A newly discovered insect has been dubbed the bone-house wasp for good reason: Researchers report that it is the only known species to build its nest with dead ants. Whereas other wasps use pieces of arthropods to disguise their nest, the bone-house wasp (Deuteragenia ossarium) is the first to use whole ants, the researchers report this month in PLOS ONE. Scientists discovered the wasp when they traveled to southeast China’s Gutianshan National Nature Reserve and set up trap nests—plastic tubes filled with cutouts of the giant cane plant for the wasps to nest in. Inside, the wasps built brood cells, little cavities with walls made from plant debris, resin, or soil, for their developing young. When the entrance cell was filled with ants, a variety of parasitic wasp and fly species attacked only 3% of brood cells. Nests belonging to wasp species that don’t follow this behavior were parasitized at a rate of 16.5%. The ant species (Pachycondyla astuta) that appeared most often in the wasps’ barricades is abundant, aggressive, and has a mean sting. The researchers hypothesize that the ants’ smell—which lingers after death—functions either to disguise the odor of the wasp’s offspring or to dissuade predators who know better than to pick a fight.
NASA’s Aquarius Returns Global Maps of Soil Moisture
Scientists working with data from NASA’s Aquarius instrument have released worldwide maps of soil moisture, showing how the wetness of the land fluctuates with the seasons and weather phenomena… Aquarius was built to study the salt content of ocean surface waters. The new soil wetness measurements were not in the mission’s primary science objectives, but a NASA-funded team led by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) researchers has developed a method to retrieve soil moisture data from the instrument’s microwave radiometer.
Soil moisture, the water contained within soil particles, is an important player in Earth’s water cycle. It is essential for plant life and influences weather and climate. Satellite readings of soil moisture will help scientists better understand the climate system and have potential for a wide range of applications, from advancing climate models, weather forecasts, drought monitoring and flood prediction to informing water management decisions and aiding in predictions of agricultural productivity.
Koushki, an Asiatic cheetah, crouches at the Miandasht Wildlife Refuge in Jajarm, northeastern Iran. The country is conducting a campaign to rescue the Asiatic Cheetah which has disappeared from the continent except in Iran, where fewer than 100 remain | image by Vahid Salemi
Once thought to be extinct, this baby golden lion tamarin is thriving in land set aside land for them. Humans presence has accelerated the rate of extinction of plant and animal species by 1,000 times, a new study reveals | image by Stuart Pimm
The skeleton shrimp, Liropus minusculus, is the smallest in the genus. It was identified from among specimens collected from a cave on the island of Santa Catalina, off the coast of Southern California. The new species has an translucent appearance that makes it resemble a bony structure. The male’s body measures 3.3mm; the female is even smaller at 2.1mm | image: SINC and JM Guerra-Garcia
Once most organisms die their life-cycle is complete, but for this plant its just a step in the process. Commonly found in the desert, it can be blown for miles and miles on the sand for up to several decades as a lifeless bunch of brown branches.
The rare instance when rain appears is when things get interesting. When the resurrection plant lands in say a puddle of rain water, it’s branches start to open up exposing it’s seeds. As the rain drops hit these seeds it scatters them around the puddle of water. Within days the seedlings appear and grow very quickly. Bugs pollinate the small white flowers of the young plants.
However, once the rain goes away, the plant dies in the hot desert sun only to start the cycle over again as a tumble weed bouncing around until the next storm.
Each of these stages of the plant are called phenological events. Where the root word pheno means “to appear”.