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Analysis and Comment (32)

New research shows golden orb weaving spiders are larger in cities compared to their relatives in the bush. New research shows golden orb weaving spiders are larger in cities compared to their relatives in the bush. Lizzy Lowe

City spiders are getting bigger — but that’s a good thing

Find yourself thinking that the spider living in your garden is the biggest you’ve ever seen? You could be right. New research shows some spiders are getting larger and even doing better in cities than…
Burnoffs in the mallee region of Victoria may have done lasting damage to the environment. Burnoffs in the mallee region of Victoria may have done lasting damage to the environment.

Burnoff policies could be damaging habitats for 100 years

The smell of smoke in the autumn and spring air is an increasingly familiar one to many Australians. It signifies that time of year when land management agencies in southern Australia feverishly try to…
Quolls have been hit hard by the introduction of cane toads, foxes, cats and other big changes over the past 200 years – but if we act fast, we may be able to save them. Quolls have been hit hard by the introduction of cane toads, foxes, cats and other big changes over the past 200 years – but if we act fast, we may be able to save them. Bronwyn Fancourt

Quolls are in danger of going the way of Tasmanian tigers

With sharp teeth and an attitude to match, quolls are some of Australia’s most impressive hunters. Ranging from around 300g to 5kg, these spectacularly spotted marsupials do an out-sized job of controlling…
Cattle drovers have won back the right to graze livestock in the Australian Alps - against scientists' advice. Cattle drovers have won back the right to graze livestock in the Australian Alps - against scientists' advice. AAP Image/Bob Richardson

Why is our wildlife in trouble? Because we’re ignoring science

From reef dredging, to shark culling, to opening old-growth forests to logging, environmental policies are leaving Australia’s wildlife exposed to threats. The reason, we propose, is that society and government…
American wolves show us how important large predators are for conservation. American wolves show us how important large predators are for conservation. Doug McLaughlin

What American wolves can teach us about Australian dingoes

We know that introduced predators such as foxes and cats are one of the greatest threats to Australia’s wildlife, but what is the best way to control them? Many Australian ecologists argue dingoes are…
Not all that which is greening is green. Not all that which is greening is green. André Künzelmann/UFZ

The ‘greening’ of Europe’s farms has been a failure

The European policies designed to encourage a more biodiverse environment that is better able to support wildlife and plants are failing. In fact, our analysis of the reforms designed to “green” the EU…
Seeing orangutans like Big Ritchie in conservation areas can raise vital support to protect his cousins in the wild, new research shows. Seeing orangutans like Big Ritchie in conservation areas can raise vital support to protect his cousins in the wild, new research shows.

How wildlife tourism and zoos can protect animals in the wild

Big Ritchie looks up from his pile of bananas, unperturbed by the flock of tourists taking his photo. Sprawled around him, mother orangutans* and their fluffy orange babies groom affectionately, chase…
Baby salmon: TomTom not required. Baby salmon: TomTom not required. Tom Quinn and Richard Bell

Magnetic maps guide young salmon from river to sea

How does a young animal find its way to an unfamiliar location hundreds or thousands of kilometres from where it was born? A reasonable idea might be to find an older, experienced migrant and follow. This…
A pair of lesser flamingos in Mumbai’s busy port area. A pair of lesser flamingos in Mumbai’s busy port area. Madhusudan Katti

Biodiversity can flourish on an urban planet

Mention the word biodiversity to a city dweller and images of remote natural beauty will probably come to mind – not an empty car park around the corner. Wildlife, we think, should be found in wild places…
Without tigers, our ecosystems will suffer. Without tigers, our ecosystems will suffer. Flickr/kohlmann.sascha

The world’s top predators are in decline, and it’s hurting us too

Humans have an innate fear of large predators, and with good reason. Nobody wants to be a shark or a lion’s next meal. But new research in the journal Science shows that our inability to live with these…
What? It’s just a flesh wound. What? It’s just a flesh wound. Steve Jurvetson

Restore large carnivores to save struggling ecosystems

We are losing our large carnivores. In ecosystems around the world, the decline of large predators such as lions, bears, dingoes, wolves, and otters is changing landscapes, from the tropics to the Arctic…
Duran, Duran, anyone? Duran, Duran, anyone? Dawn Villella/AP

Bears, wolves, lynx – Europe is going wild

Europe, the world’s most industrialised and intensively managed continent, is going wild. During the past three decades it has witnessed conservation successes with the most unexpected species: Europe…
Royal interest in tigers has cut both ways through the years. Royal interest in tigers has cut both ways through the years. S. Taheri

Tigers, elephants ask: what have royals ever done for us?

On the face of it the British royal family’s commitment to wildlife conservation is unmistakable. Perhaps the most well-known work is that of Prince Charles, who in May co-hosted a meeting on illegal wildlife…
Yasuni’s frogs are unimpressed with your lack of conviction. Yasuni’s frogs are unimpressed with your lack of conviction. Geoff Gallice

Paying Ecuador to save Yasuni was an idea ahead of its time

When the Ecuadorian Congress this month voted overwhelmingly to allow drilling for oil underneath the Yasuni National Park, it signalled the failure of a novel conservation proposal unlike any the world…
New Zealand’s ancient tuatara might need a helping hand to cope with climate change. New Zealand’s ancient tuatara might need a helping hand to cope with climate change. Flickr/Sheep"R"Us

Should we move species threatened by climate change?

Climate change is one of the greatest threats the world’s animals and plants are facing. In fact the world is facing an extinction crisis, which should concern all of us. The major problem with climate…
Not so dumb-o. Not so dumb-o. Anna Smet

Elephants get the point when it comes to making gestures

As humans, we point all the time. It’s an action we do almost without thinking: even one-year-old infants use pointing and understand what pointing means when an adult does it for them. It’s a really simple…
Will the sun set on migratory songbird hunting, or the birds themselves? Will the sun set on migratory songbird hunting, or the birds themselves? ONDR

Ending songbird slaughter? There’s an app for that

In an article for National Geographic and a forthcoming documentary film, author and birder Jonathan Franzen ponders the slaughter of migratory songbirds around the Mediterranean, and asks how it can be…
Problems breeding captive pandas shouldn’t distract from the problems faced by those in the wild. Problems breeding captive pandas shouldn’t distract from the problems faced by those in the wild. Andrew Milligan/PA

Price of captive pandas may be borne by those in the wild

When the Chinese authorities in Chengdu showed off their 14 giant panda cubs last week, it again raised questions about the role of panda breeding in zoos outside China, and whether it is a help or hindrance…
“We all look the same, we need some diversity around here.” “We all look the same, we need some diversity around here.” Rick Stuart-Smith/Reef Life Survey

Novel method of measuring biodiversity reveals surprises

I first heard used the term “biodiversity” as a graduate student some years ago. While it appeared to be something everyone agreed was important, nobody could tell me exactly what it meant. It seemed to…
How does a hippo know it should be big? How does a hippo know it should be big? PA/David Cheskin

Hippos and bumblebee bats can teach us about cancer

Mammals display an incredible diversity in size. The largest mammal, the blue whale, can grow up to 30m long and weigh up to 200 tonnes. Now compare that to the Bumblebee bat, which is 3cm long and weighs…
Extinctions: happening since before we were around, but happening a lot more now. Extinctions: happening since before we were around, but happening a lot more now. Andrew Milligan/PA

Our role in extinctions cannot be denied

The State of Nature report published this month showed that of more than 3,100 British species surveyed, 60% are in decline, and one in 10 of those species on the Red List are under threat of extinction…
Britain’s best loved mammal, but no friend to cattle farmers. Britain’s best loved mammal, but no friend to cattle farmers. Ben Birchall/PA

Swapping science for shooting won’t save cattle or badgers

What do the pilot badger culls due to start this weekend in Gloucester and West Somerset hope to achieve? The official line is a 16% reduction of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle herds over the next…
To figure out where we’re safe from crocodiles, we need to know more about what makes them move around. To figure out where we’re safe from crocodiles, we need to know more about what makes them move around. Jeff Keir

Controlling crocs means knowing who’s boss

The estuarine crocodile is the top predator in waterways across Northern Australia. Large crocodiles pose a risk to humans, so local governments take measures to control crocodile abundance and distribution…
The Mekong in Xayaburi Province, Laos – the site of a proposed dam. But what will happen to biodiversity and people? Flickr/International Rivers. The Mekong in Xayaburi Province, Laos – the site of a proposed dam. But what will happen to biodiversity and people? Flickr/International Rivers.

Rhino horn and tiger blood: conservation in the Mekong

When Australians think of the Mekong they think cheap holidays or Vietnamese restaurants. Biodiversity-wise however, the Mekong is a frontier, a place where biological riches collide with human pressure…
CSIRO’s ‘stealthy robot’, seen here observing a target through grass, will be able to discover much about natural wildlife. CSIRO’s ‘stealthy robot’, seen here observing a target through grass, will be able to discover much about natural wildlife. CSIRO

Stealth robots: spying on wildlife just got real

The ability to track wildlife in natural environments while remaining undetected poses many technological challenges. The goal of CSIRO’s “robotic stealthy tracking” project, however, is to directly address…
Back, sperm, back: a human egg on the tip of a pin. Back, sperm, back: a human egg on the tip of a pin. Flickr/wellcome images

Squaring up to difficult truths: how to reduce the population

Elephants in the room, part two For all our schemes and mantras about making our lives environmentally “sustainable”, humanity’s assault on the planet not only continues but expands. What are the deep…
Our teeming attack on the natural world threatens to turn the wilderness into a fetish item. Our teeming attack on the natural world threatens to turn the wilderness into a fetish item. AAP/The Wilderness Society

Squaring up to difficult truths: population and the environment

Elephants in the room, part one For all our schemes and mantras about making this or that part of our lives environmentally “sustainable”, humanity’s assault on the planet not only continues but expands…
Species have trouble getting around without landscape-scale corridors. Species have trouble getting around without landscape-scale corridors. Michael Dawes

Why a carbon tax for wildlife corridors is a good idea

In the 1980s, ecologists were locked in a debate about how best to preserve biodiversity. Which, they asked, was better: a single large reserve, or several small reserves? The debate was never resolved…
The plan provides nearly $100 million for our unique biodoversity. The plan provides nearly $100 million for our unique biodoversity. pierre pouliquin/flickr

What does the carbon price package mean for biodiversity?

How effective will the carbon tax package’s biodiversity measures be in conserving Australia’s ecosystems? The carbon price package’s biodiversity measures are a pleasant surprise. To the extent that the…
The vaccine – which will be given to horses – is currently 18 months away. The vaccine – which will be given to horses – is currently 18 months away. AAP

Hope for Hendra virus vaccination … but not this year

As Queensland authorities confirm the third outbreak of Hendra virus within a week, researchers are moving to fast track a horse vaccination for the deadly virus, which can spread from horses to humans…

Research and News (4)

Research Briefs (16)

Crab claw keeps crustaceans cool

A male fiddler crab’s oversized claw has be found to help it regulate its body temperature Researchers placed crabs under…

Dishy plants get bats on the radar

A rainforest vine, pollinated by bats, has evolved dish-shaped leaves with such conspicuous echoes that nectar-feeding bats…