Biodiversity News

Parents favour their colourful chicks

For many species of birds, it is typical for either the male or female to sport a colourful appearance to attract a mate, but it is less common to see seemingly drab parents with a particularly ornate chick. This is the case for the American coot; their chicks have bright orange and red feathers, beaks and skin, whereas their parents are, in comparison, quite dull. This could be down to their reproductive strategy. American coots lay many small eggs, and chick mortality is high. When food supply starts to run short, the parents have to become more choosey when allocating food and begin to favour the more colourful chicks. This helps to level out the playing field amongst the brood as the later hatched (and so smaller) chicks are the most ornate. Therefore, their colourful appearance could be a signal for more food.  

 

Jumping ants use more than their legs

Gigantiops destructor is relatively small species of ant (despite its name!) found in South America. We only know of four types of ants that travel by using their legs to jump, one of which is G. destructor. But it’s not just their legs that they use. Scientist have recently discovered that G. destructor move their abdomen in such a way that they can increase the speed and height of their jumps – a particularly useful technique when navigating the leaf litter of the forest floor.

 

Australia’s bushfires: the impact on wildlife

The world watches on as bushfires rip through eastern Australia, the total burned area now covering a staggering 8.4m hectares. This has had a devasting effect on Australia’s unique wildlife, with an estimated 480 million birds, mammals and reptiles affected. Professor Chris Dickman of the University of Sydney provided this estimate, applying the methods from past studies that investigated the impact of land clearing on mammal population densities. Unfortunately, it is likely that the true figure is much higher, as this estimate does not include bats, frog and insects.