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Here are some interesting snippets from some recent newsletters.


Galapogos Mockingbirds
New research shows that it was the Galapagos Mockingbirds, which are discernibly different on several islands, that gave Darwin his first critical insight into island speciation, and inspired his initial thinking about evolution. However, in The Origin of the Species there is no mention of Galapagos Mockingbirds, either singly or as a group.

Lullabies for life
Each female Fairy Wren has a sightly different call which chicks learn while in the egg. The ones that mimicked that call the best received more food from both parents. This meant that they Fairy Wren chicks had a better chance of survival than Cuckoo chicks who had to learn the call quickly once hatched. Otherwise they would be abandoned by the Fairy Wren parents, even if they were the only chick left in the nest.

Kangaroos are ecosystem engineers..
They can completely change the structure of grasslands which changes the bird species which are present.



Do insect infestations make fire less severe?
An extensive American study has found that insect outbreaks can thin forests and reduce wildfire impacts. This may help forest managers prioritize firefighting and forest restoration activities in other areas, such as forests close to human communities. However there is not a one-size-fits-all solution for managing insect- and fire-prone forests.

China Bug Declared World’s Longest Insect
A stick insect measuring 62.4 centimeters (24.6 inches) found in the southern province of Guangxi has broken the record for insect length.

Hawk moths have a second nose for evaluating flowers
Scent is an important indicator of the presence of nectar to pollinators because it provides information about the age and physiological activity of a flower, which is strongly correlated with its nectar production. This means that scenting flowers are more likely to be perceived by pollinators than are non-scenting flowers. Insects have developed incredible sensory capabilities in order to cope with their environment. Researchers have reecently discovered that the hawk moth is able to smell floral scent with the tip of its tongue.

“Studies on the ecology of flowers have underestimated the capabilities of pollinators for a long time. The evolution of flowers is tightly linked to the evolution of pollinators. By learning more about the postmen of the pollen we learn more about the evolution and the functions of plants floral traits as well.”

Do insects have personalities by Patrick Honan
If you’ve ever seen a mating pair of Rhinoceros Beetles with their heads buried deep in soft banana, you’d have to say that Rhino Beetles know how to enjoy themselves.

But do they have personalities? The question is answerable partly from a scientific perspective, but also whether their behaviour fits the human understanding of what consititutes a personality. Individual species show distinctive behavioural traits. Anyone who’s met a Blue Ant (Diamma bicolor), for example, will know how hostile they can be, whilst Steel-blue Sawflies (Perga dorsalis) are contractually gregarious, and most Raspy Cricket species (Family Gryllacrididae) appear to be perpetually outraged and will come at you from across the room (which makes them so appealing).

Many people who know insects tend to anthropomorphise the species they know best. The Garden Mantid (Orthodera ministralis) is confident and curious, but can turn in a heartbeat into a skilled and clinical killer. Greengrocer Cicadas (Cyclochila australasiae) are loud and raucous – the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos of the insect world. Bushflies (Musca vetustissima), on the other hand, are sharp and nimble, whereas Marchflies (Family Tabanidae) are dense and clumsy, the dummkopfs of the fly world.

Ellinor Campbell