With weird and wonderful sensory organs throughout the animal kingdom, how do organisms navigate the world around them, especially as human society expands further into natural environments?
Many animals are renowned for behaviors that rely upon strong sensory capabilities, such as efficient hunting prowess, impeccable navigation skills, nocturnal lifestyles, and unique hearing methods. Millions of years of evolution are now coming under the metaphorical microscope to better understand how these sensory skills are key to a species’ survival.
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Watching a predator hunt down its prey is simultaneously fascinating and unsettling, but predators continue to succeed in their pursuit due to a long evolutionary history of precise sensory and behavioural characteristic development. When confronted with a melee of fast-moving bats, how does the predatory raptor capture a single individual, for example? Caroline Brighton shared research on attack behaviours in hawks and falcons in the Nature Portfolio Ecology and Evolution Community. The research team modelled behavioural algorithms to better understand the manoeuvres that birds of prey use to identify, pursue and capture prey despite the sensory overload of collective motion
Corals are one of the most efficient organisms using photosynthesis as an energy source. But as corals continue to be threatened by warming ocean temperatures and subsequent coral bleaching, perhaps there is hope for those coral species living within the mesophotic zone - an oceanic world sitting between the brightly lit waters of tropical reefs and the dark depths of the ocean. Netanel Kramer shares the secret to mesophotic coral success in the Nature Portfolio Ecology and Evolution Community. Differences between shallow-water and mesophotic corals were discovered not only in the small-scale morphology of corallites, but also in the flattened growth form of mesophotic corals (which increases the surface area to volume ratio over which light can be harvested).
Bats are renowned for their skilled echolocation capabilities to navigate the world around them. Sound wave frequencies exceed those of human hearing, but bats emit their own, unique call, which bounces off the surrounding environment and allows them to identify prey. Alexander Baugh, runner up in the BMC Ecology and Evolution Image Competition 2022 showcased in the Nature Portfolio Ecology and Evolution Community, captured the moment that a fringe-lipped bat (Trachops cirrhosis) used these skills to tune in to the mating call of a male tungara frog (Physalalamus pustulosus) and earn itself a meal.
Besides our sensory organs, humans navigate the world around them through a lifetime of memories. Random changes in neural connections that stimulate our brains should erase these memories, but they don’t. Jappe Murre shares new insights into neural morphology that encodes for long-term memories in the Nature Portfolio Behavioural and Social Sciences Community. A mathematical model seeks to understand the fluctuations in neural connections and suggests that the creation of fewer, but stronger connections leaves more neural resources for storing memories in the future.
Charlotte is a Freelance Research Content Manager at Springer Nature and is based in Birmingham. Her main focus is spotlighting the research published by Springer Nature through Behind the Paper blogs in the Nature Portfolio and Springer Nature Communities, and engaging audiences through social media content creation.