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Considered an icon of conservation science, researchers at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) headquarters in Washington, D.C.,...
The new atlas, which shows the distribution of important trace metals and other substances, is the first product of...
Early in April, the first of a fleet of environmental monitoring satellites will lift off from Europe's spaceport in...
Since 2000, U.S. government health research agencies have spent almost $1 billion on an effort to churn out thousands...
Magdalena Koziol, a former postdoc at Yale University, was the victim of scientific sabotage. Now, she is suing the...
Antiretroviral drugs can protect people from becoming infected by HIV. But so-called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP...
Two studies show that eating a diet low in protein and high in carbohydrates is linked to a longer, healthier life, and...
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ScienceShot: A Fly's Imperfect Disguise
21 March 2012 2:01 pm
The fly on the left is a puzzle. In theory, it should have evolved to look just as wasplike as the one on the right, the better to ward off hungry birds. But many members of the family Syrphidae, to which both flies belong, only vaguely resemble stinging insects. Scientists have suggested that these mimics are imprecise because they simultaneously copy multiple species, or that humans see imperfections invisible to birds. To test these and other explanations, researchers examined 38 species of hover flies (Syrphidae) and 10 species of bees and wasps. After a statistical analysis of the insects' body measurements and colors, as well as their abundance and ability to trick both humans and birds, the authors discarded most of the existing explanations. Instead, they report online today in Nature, the answer comes down to size: Big flies were the best mimics and small, housefly-sized ones the worst. The team suggests that, because birds prefer to eat larger flies, the little ones simply aren't under as much pressure to evolve perfect disguises.
See more ScienceShots.