Feeding ants dopamine might make them smarter foragers

In an ant colony, few tasks are as important as gathering food. But the desert heat can pose a challenge for an ant on foraging duty. Recent findings show how dopamine may influence the behavior of ant foragers in the desert ,according to Science Daily.

"If there's one thing you can say about an individual ant's behavior, it's that it's doing it for the colony," says Daniel Friedman, first author and biology PhD candidate at Stanford University. "An ant colony acts almost like a multicellular organism; the colony is the evolutionary unit. We wanted to see if collective behavioral variations among colonies were associated with differences in individual forager brain chemistry."

Newly identified 127 million-year-old extinct bird species reveals an important stepping stone between dinosaurs and modern birds

A newly identified 127 million-year-old extinct bird species has revealed a crucial evolutionary stepping stone between ancient dinosaurs and modern birds, according to Daily Mail.

The fossil, which was unearthed in northeastern China, provides new information about avian development during the early evolution of flight.

The early Cretaceous fossil dates to a time when birds had already lost their long bony tail, but before they evolved a fan of flight feathers on their shortened tail.

Kiwifruit duplicated its vitamin C genes twice, 50 million and 20 million years ago

Today's kiwifruit, a member of the Chinese gooseberry family, contains about as much vitamin C as an orange. This extra boost in vitamin C production is the result of the kiwifruit's ancestors' spontaneously duplicating their DNA in two separate evolutionary events approximately 50-57 million and 18-20 million years ago.

"Polyploidy is an abrupt evolutionary event that produces thousands of extra copies of genes overnight," says senior author Xiyin Wang, an agricultural plant scientist at the North China University of Science and Technology. "These extra copies may greatly elevate the robustness of the plant, providing opportunities for natural selection to prune and rewire its biological system over time."

Turtle species in serious decline: Broad ecological impacts

Approximately 61 percent of the world's 356 turtle species are threatened or already extinct, and the decline could have ecological consequences, according to Science Daily.

Turtles are now among the most threatened groups of vertebrate animals on earth, more so than birds, mammals, fish or amphibians. These animals outlived the dinosaurs and have roamed the earth for more than 200 million years. Reasons for the decline of turtles worldwide include habitat destruction, over-exploitation for pets and food, disease and climate change.

"Our goal is to provide resource managers with a full picture of the state of these iconic animals worldwide, and what long-term impacts our environment might experience if populations continue to decrease and species loss continues," said scientist and lead author of the study Jeffrey Lovich. "Turtles contribute to the health of many environments, including desert, wetland, freshwater and marine ecosystems, and their decline may lead to negative effects on other species, including humans, that may not be immediately apparent."

Clown fish: Whence the white stripes?

Coral reef fish are known for the wide range of colors and patterns they display, but the mechanisms governing the acquisition of these characteristics are still poorly understood. These researchers focused on clown fish, a group including thirty-some species distinguished by numbers of white stripes (zero to three) and by their colors, including yellow, orange, red, and black.

The team first demonstrated that stripes are essential for individual fish to recognize others of their species. Such recognition is critical to the social organization of clown fish living among sea anemones where several species may be simultaneously present and young fish seek to establish permanent homes, according to Science Daily.