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Gary Chang via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Gary Chang via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Mother Beetles Release Unattractive Pheromones to Turn Off Frisky Males

Gary Chang via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Gary Chang via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

New burying beetle moms have a lot on their plates. The last thing they want to deal with is unwanted sexual advances from their male counterparts, and thanks to a neat evolutionary trick they don't have to.

According to a study recently published in Nature Communications [PDF], female burying beetles raising larvae release particularly unappealing pheromones in order to suppress sexual impulses in males. Not only does this save the mother some hassle, but it's good for the whole family as well.

Burying beetles are exceptional in that both males and females raise their young together. The mother's chemical form of rejection allows the two parents to focus on caring for the offspring without any needless distractions. This same pheromone is also a signal that the beetle has paused her egg production, so any copulation that did still take place would be pointless.

The discovery was made by researchers at universities in Germany by attracting beetles with mouse carcasses left in the woods near the school. In addition to using the mouse as a food source, it also acts as a vessel for the beetle's nest. The insect is part of a larger family of corpse-inhabiting creatures known as carrion beetles.

[h/t The Verge]

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John Phillips, Getty Images for Tourism Australia
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Animals
New Plankton Species Named After Sir David Attenborough Series Blue Planet
John Phillips, Getty Images for Tourism Australia
John Phillips, Getty Images for Tourism Australia

At least 19 creatures, both living and extinct, have been named after iconic British naturalist Sir David Attenborough. Now, for the first time, one of his documentary series will receive the same honor. As the BBC reports, a newly discovered phytoplankton shares its name with the award-winning BBC series Blue Planet.

The second half of the species' name, Syracosphaera azureaplaneta, is Latin for "blue planet," likely making it the first creature to derive its name from a television program. The single-cell organisms are just thousandths of a millimeter wide, thinner than a human hair, but their massive blooms on the ocean's surface can be seen from space. Called coccolithophores, the plankton serve as a food source for various marine life and are a vital marker scientists use to gauge the effects of climate change on the sea. The plankton's discovery, by researchers at University College London (UCL) and institutions in Spain and Japan, is detailed in a paper [PDF] published in the Journal of Nannoplankton Research.

"They are an essential element in the whole cycle of oxygen production and carbon dioxide and all the rest of it, and you mess about with this sort of thing, and the echoes and the reverberations and the consequences extend throughout the atmosphere," Attenborough said while accepting the honor at UCL.

The Blue Planet premiered in 2001 with eight episodes, each dedicated to a different part of the world's oceans. The series' success inspired a sequel series, Blue Planet II, that debuted on the BBC last year.

[h/t BBC]

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'Angry Badger' Terrorizes Scottish Castle, Forcing Closures 
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iStock

Portions of the 16th-century Craignethan Castle in Scotland were shut down last week after a less-than-friendly badger holed up there and refused to leave. Historic Environment Scotland, which manages the site in South Lanarkshire, sent out a tweet last Friday notifying visitors that the property's cellar tunnel would remain closed over the weekend “due to the presence of a very angry badger.” Staff tried to coax it out with cat food and honey, but the badger did what it wanted, and they were unable to move the mammal.

A spokesman for HES told the BBC, "The castle is surrounded by woodland and we believe the badger may have become lost. Staff first spotted some dug-out earth on Wednesday evening, and later spotted the badger on closer inspection."

On Saturday, staff used a GoPro camera to check out the tunnel from a safe distance and learned that the badger had left voluntarily, but not before making a mess. The critter dug through both soil and stonework, according to The Scotsman. The castle, an artillery fortification erected around 1530, is already partly in ruins.

Craignethan Castle in Scotland
Sandy Stevenson, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Badgers are not typically dangerous, but they can become aggressive if they feel cornered or threatened. They can be seen year-round in Scotland, especially during spring and summer. Earthworms, bird eggs, small mammals, fruit, and roots are among their favorite meals, and they can even be “tempted into your garden by leaving peanuts out—a tasty snack for our striped friends,” the Scottish Wildlife Trust says.

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