Panama  PANAMÁ 18/05/2021

Informed tourists make whale watching safer for whales

How does whale watching affect whale behavior? Who watches whales in Panama’s Las Perlas Archipelago? Researchers from STRI and ASU hope to recommend innovative data-based conservation strategies

According to the International Whaling Commission, whale-watching tourism generates more than $2.5 billion a year. After the COVID-19 pandemic, this relatively safe outdoor activity is expected to rebound. Two new studies funded by a collaborative initiative between the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama and Arizona State University (ASU) show how science can contribute to whale watching practices that ensure the conservation and safety of whales and dolphins.

 
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Panama  PANAMÁ 19/04/2021

How will the biggest tropical trees respond to climate change?

Scientists think that climate change may have greater impact the largest trees in tropical forests. but because these monumental trees are few and far between, almost nothing is known about what causes them to die.

Giant trees in tropical forests, witnesses to centuries of civilization, may be trapped in a dangerous feedback loop according to a new report in Nature Plants from researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama and the University of Birmingham, U.K. The biggest trees store half of the carbon in mature tropical forests, but they could be at risk of death as a result of climate change—releasing massive amounts of carbon back into the atmosphere.

 

 
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Panama  PANAMÁ 07/04/2021

How the Chicxulub Impactor gave rise to modern rainforests

About 66 million years ago, a huge asteroid crashed into what is now the Yucatan, plunging the Earth into darkness. The impact transformed tropical rainforests, giving rise to the reign of flowers.

Tropical rainforests today are biodiversity hotspots and play an important role in the world’s climate systems. A new study published today in Science sheds light on the origins of modern rainforests and may help scientists understand how rainforests will respond to a rapidly changing climate in the future.

 

 
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Venezuela  VENEZUELA 05/03/2021

Is odor the secret to bats' sex appeal?

Odors come from very different parts of bats' bodies, from their heads and mouths to their wings or genitalia

When falling in love, humans often pay attention to looks. Many non-human animals also choose a sexual partner based on appearance. Male birds may sport flashy feathers to attract females, lionesses prefer lions with thicker manes and colorful male guppies with large spots attract the most females. But bats are active in the dark. How do they attract mates? Mariana Muñoz-Romo, a senior Latin American postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and National Geographic explorer, pioneers research to understand the role of odors in bat mating behavior.

 

 
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Panama  PANAMÁ 02/03/2021

First DNA extracted from modern, ancient and fossil tropical shells

The next time you eat seafood, think about the long-term effects. Will consistently eating the biggest fish or the biggest conch, mean that only the smaller individuals will have a chance to reproduce?

In Wonderland, Alice drank a potion to shrink herself. In nature, some animal species shrink to escape the attention of human hunters, a process that takes from decades to millennia. To begin to understand the genetics of shrinking, scientists working at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama successfully extracted DNA from marine shells. Their new technique will not only shed light on how animals from lizards to lemurs shrink, it will reveal many other stories hidden in shells.

 

 
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Panama  PANAMÁ 26/02/2021

Are eastern pacific corals climate change survivors?

A tech entrepreneur who dreamed of becoming a marine biologist teams up with STRI researchers and young Latin American biologists to find out if some coral reefs are more resilient than others

 

Coral reefs cover 1% of the Earth’s surface – but are home to 25% of the world’s marine species. Reefs are under threat from climate change, but a team of researchers from STRI has embarked on a four-year quest to solve a tantalizing mystery: why do some corals in the Tropical Eastern Pacific seem to be more resistant to the damaging effects of climate change than corals elsewhere? By unlocking the secrets of these “super-corals,” they hope to help rescue and restore coral reefs worldwide.

 
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Portugal  PORTUGAL 19/02/2021

How larger brains can predict social behaviours

Team of researchers, co-led by IGC principal investigator Rui Oliveira, discovered that the size of the brain is important for complex social decision making

Eager to understand how the environment can impact animal cognitive performance, a team of researchers discovered that, in cleaner fish from the Great Barrier Reef, the size of the brain is important for complex social decision making. The study published in Nature Communications suggests that large forebrains (the forward-most portion of the brain) enable individuals to adapt better to local environmental conditions, important data to add to the study of coral reef ecosystems.

 
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Panama  PANAMÁ 08/01/2021

Male bats with high testosterone levels have large forearm crusts

Male Fringe-Lipped bats smear a sticky, odorous substance on their forearms. When this was discovered, researchers guessed that it might play a role in mating

Males may put a lot of effort into attracting females. Male peacocks flaunt eye-catching trains, but male bats, because they are active at night, may rely on females’ sense of smell to draw them in. Three years ago, Victoria Flores, a predoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama, discovered that male fringed-lipped bats often have a sweet-smelling, crusty substance on their forearms. Because only males had crusts and primarily exhibited these crusts during the putative reproductive season, Flores speculated that crusts might play a role in mating. Now Mariana Muñoz-Romo, postdoctoral fellow at STRI and National Geographic Explorer, and her colleagues have evidence to prove it.

 
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Panama  PANAMÁ 28/12/2020

Sea urchins are stuck belly up in low-oxygen hot water

As oceans warm and become more acidic and oxygen-poor, Smithsonian researchers asked how marine life on a Caribbean coral reef copes with changing conditions

“During my study, water temperatures on reefs in Bocas del Toro, Panama, reached an alarming high of almost 33 degrees C (or 91 degrees F), temperatures that would make most of us sweat or look for air conditioning—options not available to reef inhabitants,” said Noelle Lucey, post-doctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI).

 
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Panama  PANAMÁ 16/12/2020

Smithsonian scientist clears up Panamanian urban legend

How did canal grass arrive in Panama? STRI staff scientist Kristin Saltonstall compared the DNA of sugar cane relatives from around the world to find out

Urban legends about the origins of canal grass in Panama abound, but the Smithsonian has new evidence that puts the question to rest. Canal grass is an invasive weed, native to Asia. Because its tiny seeds blow in the wind, it readily invades clearings and spreads to form impenetrable stands by budding from tillers and rhizomes. Once established, canal grass is challenging to eliminate. Fire burns the tops and stimulates the roots. Glassy hairs edging its leaf blades cut skin and dull machetes.

 
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Panama  PANAMÁ 09/11/2020

DNA in fringe-lipped bat poop reveals unexpected eating habits

The poop of 'Trachops cirrhosus' revealed surprising results about its foraging abilities and prey preferences

Poop is full of secrets. For scientists, digging into feces provides insights into animal diets and is particularly useful for understanding nocturnal or rare species. When animals eat, prey DNA travels all the way through animal digestive tracts and comes out again. Poop contains very precise information about the prey species consumed. At the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), a team explored the eating habits of the fringe-lipped bat (Trachops cirrhosus) by examining its poop.

 
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Panama  PANAMÁ 30/10/2020

How the ability to clone itself may empower a mystery globetrotter

It always pays to think outside of the box. Rachel Collin decided to look further afield to find the adult form that matched a larvae from a plankton sample in Panama and was surprised by the result

For decades biologists have captured tiny sea star larvae in their nets that did not match with the adults of any known species. A Smithsonian team just discovered what these larvae grow up to be and how a special superpower may help them move around the world. Their results are published online in the Biological Bulletin.

 
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Panama  PANAMÁ 24/09/2020

How do Giraffes and Elephants alter the african savanna landscape?

Through their foraging behavior across the diverse topography of the African savanna, megaherbivores may be unknowingly influencing the growth and survival of vegetation on valleys and plateaus

As they roam around the African savanna in search for food, giraffes and elephants alter the diversity and richness of its vegetation. By studying the foraging patterns of these megaherbivores across different terrains in a savanna in Kenya, scientists from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and collaborating institutions discovered that these large mammals prefer to eat their meals on flat ground, potentially impacting the growth and survival of plant species on even savanna landscapes, such as valleys and plateaus.

 
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Panama  PANAMÁ 01/09/2020

Mother bats use baby talk to communicate with their pups

Just as humans with their babies, adult female bats change their vocalizations when interacting with “babbling” pups, which could be interpreted as positive feedback to their offspring during vocal practice

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Panama  PANAMÁ 03/08/2020

Lightning strikes more than 100 million times per year in the tropics

Scientists consider the lightning strikes will radically alter forests and other ecosystems in the region between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.

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Panama  PANAMÁ 27/07/2020

Long-term consequences of river damming in the Panama Canal

As the demand for hydroelectricity and water increases in the tropics, a team of scientists explored the natural impacts of one of the oldest tropical dams in the world

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Panama  PANAMÁ 02/07/2020

A new social role for echolocation in bats that hunt together

Socially foraging bats may find food faster by listening in to the search-phase calls of their group members

Searching for food at night can be tricky. To find prey in the dark, bats use echolocation, their “sixth sense.” But to find food faster, some species, like Molossus molossus, may search within hearittng distance of their echolocating group members, sharing information about where food patches are located. Social information encoded in their echolocation calls may facilitate this foraging strategy, according to a recent study by Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) scientists and collaborating institutions published online in Behavioral Ecology.

 
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Spain  MADRID 10/06/2020

A research study improves solar radiation forecasting models

Researchers at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) and the Universidad de Jaen (UJA) have published a study in which they have developed an optimal blending of solar radiation

Researchers at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) and the Universidad de Jaen (UJA) have published a study in which they have developed an optimal blending of solar radiation forecasting models with which they are able to reduce error in short-term forecasts (6 hours) by 25% and 30%.

 
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Chile  MAGALLANES Y DE LA ANTáRTICA CHILENA 04/06/2020

Humpback whales may risk collision with vessels in the Magellan Strait

By tagging and tracking migrating humpback whales that feed in the Magellan Strait in Chile, the scientists were able to provide policy recommendations to reduce the risk of collisions

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Panama  PANAMÁ 30/04/2020

White-faced capuchin monkeys come down from the trees on Panama's Coiba Island

A group of intrepid biologists was surprised to find that capuchin monkeys spent so much time on the ground there

Crossing a 23-kilometer stretch of ocean from mainland Panama to Coiba, the largest offshore island in the Eastern Pacific, a group of intrepid biologists hoped to find species never reported there before. But in addition to discovering new species, the 2015 Coiba BioBlitz crew was surprised to find that capuchin monkeys spent so much time on the ground there.

 
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