April 2012 Archives

"Unusual" Armored Catfish

National Geopgraphic, Christine Dell'Amore

"A new species of suckermouth armored catfish has been found in Ecuador, a new study says.

DePaul University scientist Windsor Aguirre found five specimens of the odd-looking fish in 2008 in the Santa Rosa River (map) and sent them to Alabama's Auburn University for identification.

"When we first realized it was new, it wasn't particularly surprising--this family [of catfish] increases in number every year," said study leader Milton Tan, a Ph.D. student in biology at Auburn.

Instead, what interested Tan and colleagues is that the 2.8-inch-long (7-centimeter-long) species--unlike its relatives--lacks armored plates on the sides of its head."

Christine Dell'Amore, National Geographic News, April 3, 2012

"Last seen in 1949, the 1.3-inch-long (3.2-centimeter-long) amphibian was found during a December 2011 biodiversity survey in the small central African country of Burundi, scientists announced in March.

Thwarted by decades of political conflict, few biologists have so far been able to explore Burundi's ecosystems.

"The last time this species was seen was the first time this species was seen--that's the state of our knowledge in this little corner of Africa," said team member David Blackburn, a herpetologist at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco."

Ants work together to battle a deadly fungus by diluting the infection across the colony
By Ferris Jabr | April 3, 2012, Scientific American

"When a deadly fungus infects an ant colony, the healthy insects do not necessarily ostracize their sick nest mates. Instead, they welcome the contagious with open arms--or, rather, open mouths--often licking their neighbors to remove the fungal spores before the pathogens sprout and grow. Apparently, such grooming dilutes the infection, spreading it thinly across the colony. Instead of leaving their infected peers to deal with the infection on their own and die, healthy ants share the burden, deliberately infecting everyone in the colony with a tiny dose of fungus that each individual's immune system can clear on its own. Such "social immunization" also primes the immune systems of healthy ants to battle the infection. These are the conclusions of a new study in the April 3 issue of PLoS Biology."