Bees use multiple cues in hunt for pollen

Bees use a variety of senses and memory of previous experiences when deciding where to forage for pollen, research suggests.

The researchers believe pollen-collecting bees do not base their foraging decisions on taste alone, but instead make an "overall sensory assessment" of their experience at a particular flower.

Bees typically do not eat pollen when they collect it from flowers, but carry it back to the nest via special "sacs" on their legs or hairs on their body.

Blind as a bat? Spooky creatures traded good sight and smell for the ability to hunt using their sense of sound

Bats' ability to detect and hunt insects in the dark using echolocation is one of the marvels of the natural world.

But to evolve their unique sonar system for exploring pitch-back caves, some species made trade-offs when it came to their other senses such as vision and hearing, a new study reveals.

While it doesn't confirm the popular phrase 'blind as a bat', the study says two types of bat that rely on echolocation have lost a dozen vision-related genes.

Echolocation works by bats making high pitched calls inaudible to humans as they fly and listening to the returning echoes.

Swifts fly non-stop for 10 MONTHS every year and only come down to breed

It's already the fastest bird recorded in level flight, now researchers have confirmed the common swift can fly for 10 months a year without coming down.

While scientists have long suspected the bird spends most of its life on the wing, the evidence collected has set a new record.

And the bird's incredible journey may mean it travels as far as seven round-trips to the moon over its lifetime.

It's already known that some birds remain in flight for periods of months, including frigate birds and alpine swifts and that the common swift (Apus apus) is adapted to an aerial lifestyle, where food and nest material are captured in the air.

Observations have prompted scientists to believe that common swifts stay airborne for their entire non-breeding period, including migration into sub-Saharan Africa.

Marine life showing its true colors

Researchers have established that colourful coastal cephalopods are actually colourblind -- but can still manage to blend beautifully with their surroundings.

Cephalopods -- cuttlefish, squid and octopus -- are renowned for their fast colour changes and remarkable camouflage abilities.

Professor Justin Marshall and Dr Wensung Chung also found that squid have the ability to adapt their vision depending on the colour and depth of the water they live in.

Professor Marshall said this latest research into cephalopods provided fascinating insights into how the remarkably intelligent creatures interacted with their world.

"These engaging and charismatic animals can display complex, bright colour patterns on their skin, but our studies have reconfirmed beyond doubt that they are colourblind," Professor Marshall said.

Turning pretty penstemon flowers from blue to red

While roses are red, and violets are blue, how exactly do flower colors change?

In the case of penstemons, with over 200 species to choose from, scientists Carolyn Wessinger and Mark Rausher have now shown that turning their flowers from blue to red involves knocking out the activity of just a single enzyme involved in the production of blue floral pigments.

A genetically conserved biochemical pathway produces the vivid blue pigments that they found to mutate over time to produce red. To shift into red pigment production, the enzyme flavonoid 3', 5' -hydroxylase (F3'5'h) is functionally inactivated in the 13 red-flowered species they examined by mutations that abolish enzyme activity. This occurred by independent evolutionary events, showing a relatively simple, predictable genetic change behind the evolution from blue to red penstemons.

While blue can change to red, in this case, evolution always drives down a one-way street, as reverse changes of red to blue are not observed.

"Evolutionary shifts from blue to red flowers in Penstemon predictably involves degeneration of the same particular flower pigment gene, suggesting there are limited genetic 'options' for evolving red flowers in this group," said Wessinger. "However, it is lot easier for evolution to break a gene than to fix one, so we suspect that reversals from red to blue flowers would be highly unlikely."

Source: Science daily