This September edition of the Royal Society Publishing highlights blog includes the navigation methods of migratory bats; the reproduction behaviour of tropical rabbitfish; Americans living according to their voting status; the effects of field margin management on crop yield; a review of the rapid movement of plants; and the construction of ATP.
The topics highlighted here are just some of the fascinating content included in our September issues. Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook to hear about more exciting content. Tweet any thoughts or comments you have, we would love to hear from you.
Polarised light does not illuminate the way for migratory bats
Migratory animals constantly need to orient and navigate through unknown or changing landscapes if they want to reach their summer breeding grounds or wintering sites. This paper, featured in Biology Letters, found that Nathusius’s pipistrelles, which migrate over 200km, do not use polarised skylight for compass calibration. This is unlike non-migratory bat species who have been found to use polarised light as a navigational cue. The question remains as to which navigational cues are being utilised by migrating bats, and why they use those in particular.
The formation of political opinions
Modelling how people form opinions is a growing area of interest among mathematicians. This Proceedings A article presents two new models exploring how societies form political opinions. One takes the influence of strong opinion leaders into account and the other accounts for the non-random spatial distribution of individuals, an important factor as Americans tend increasingly to live with others who share their political opinion.
Loveless marriages in rabbitfish
Sad news for all the romantics out there in this month’s edition of Royal Society Open Science. Based on long-term tracking data, researchers found that tropical marine rabbitfish (Siganus doliatus), once thought to pair for life for breeding purposes, actually migrate for months of the year to participate in mass group reproductive behaviour in line with the lunar cycle. These results raise fundamental questions in relation both to the function of rabbitfish pairings, and how long those pairings actually last.
More space for wildlife means more food for us
As the world’s population increases, global food security continues to be a growing concern. Removing crop-producing land to allow for ecological intensification may sound counter-intuitive, but this process can enhance natural processes which support food production. This study in Proceedings B shows that removing 3-8% of farmed land for habitat creation led to an increased yield which either equaled or increased the total field yield compared to the full crop field.
Bioinspiration from fast moving plants
Plants such as the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) with rapid movement in the absence of muscular support, have fascinated both lay and scientific groups for many years. This month’s Interface features a paper that highlights a variety of these fast-moving plant species. They also review a series of studies that research potential biomimetic structures spanning biomechanical, biomedical, and engineering disciplines, all inspired by fast-moving plants. One such application being the development of solar energy devices capable of tracking the sun and hence maximizing their productivity.
How to build ATP
Life depends on our ability to convert energy in foodstuffs into the energy currency of life, a molecule known as adenosine triphosphate (or ATP for short). The production of ATP is carried out by a molecular machine known as ATP synthase, which operates by a rotary mechanism. In order to understand how this machine works, a study published in Open Biology, describes the essential step of making the required components using X-ray diffraction. This study brings this field one step closer to the capability of cultivating this essential compound in a lab setting and thus aiding the understanding of its production in vivo.