BMC Ecology has just announced the winners of its ecology image photo competition, which produced an array of dazzling photographs. Following are some of the contest winners, as well as some other images that stood out. The overall contest winner went to this Namaqua rock mouse mingling with the pollen of a Pagoda Lily while dining on the nectar of the flowers.Scorpion-Eating Mice Feel No Sting
The overall runner-up went to this black-browed albatross and its chick on New Island in the northwest Falkland Islands.Oldest Mama Bird Hatches New Chick
Editor's Pick went to this amazing group of King penguin chicks surrounding two overwhelmed-looking adults in the background.Poop Stains Reveal Penguins Migrate With Climate
The winner in the behavioral and physiological ecology category was this
ant being attacked by a parasitoid phorid fly. "At the moment of the attack the ants were involved in an intra-specific fight between two different ant nests, and presumably the fly detected the ants because of the alarm pheromones released during the fight," photographer Bernardo Segura explained.6 New 'Dracula' Ant Species Discovered in Madagascar
Andrew J. Crawford
Much is going on in this winner of BMC Ecology's community, population and macroecology category. Captured are a crab spider on a flower attacking a euglossine bee while, just few petals over, a butterfly checks for some nectar.Bumblebees Can Fly Higher Than Mount Everest
The conservation ecology and biodiversity prize was awarded to this shot of a young coral reaching its branches toward the sun. It's "the marine equivalent of a young tree shooting skyward to fulfil its ecological role in a forest," photographer Catherine Kim said. The picture was taken in the Philippine waters of the Sulu Sea.
The landscape ecology and ecosystems winner was this image from California's Death Valley. It captures a group of plants that are somehow able to survive in a world where only a few inches of rain fall per year.Mystery of Death Valley's Moving Rocks Solved
Ryan J. Burke (University of Oxford)
Other stunning images vied in the BMC competition. These acrobatic geladas have some fun while leaping down a steep incline to bed down in their sleeping roosts in the Ethiopian Highlands.
Bernardo Segura (University of Chile)
This competition entry was taken in central Chile and captures wasps mating while the female of the species holds a cricket.Macabre Wasp Stacks Ant Skeletons in Its Home
J.P. Lawrence (University of Mississippi)
Eastern swallowtails (
) often grace river's edges in the eastern United States. They congregate in large numbers and feed on mineral deposits along the banks. Sometimes they even end up appearing in a photo competition.Strange and Beautiful Butterflies: Photos
Male mice sing different songs in different contexts when courting lady mice, saving their best stuff for females they haven't even met yet.
That's according to new research out of Duke University that documented male mice changing their tunes, literally, as social contexts changed. And the kicker? The fancy tunes were, perhaps no surprise, a hit with the ladies (and, hey, they could always blame the drummer if things did not go well).
The news isn't just of interest to fans of singing mice. The findings, and further study on what mice can or can't do vocally, may have implications for autism spectrum disorders in humans, say the researchers.
Mice "sing" using what are called "ultrasonic vocalizations" -- high-pitched sounds that escape the human ear. To listen in on them, the researchers used special microphones to record male mice singing in two social contexts: smelling, but not seeing, a female; and interacting with her in person (as it were).
In the first case, the male was presented with female urine to sniff, but there was no lady in sight for him to woo. So what's a mouse in the mood to do? Sight unseen, the male sang to his intended a loud, complex song (defined by the scientists as a series of utterances or syllables, sometimes with a tempo).
In the second case, the female was placed in the same container with the male. Finally whisker-to-whisker with the object of his desire, the romeo mouse sang longer, simpler, quieter songs. (The video below offers a chance to compare the male's vocal chops in both cases.)
"We think this has something to do with the complex song being like a calling song, and then when he sees the female, he switches to a simpler song in order to save energy to chase and try to court her at the same time," said co-corresponding author Erich Jarvis, an associate professor of neurobiology at Duke University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.
Meanwhile, the fancy vocal gymnastics went over big with the female mice in the study. Given the choice, the majority preferred to listen to the complex songs. The researchers say this display of different reactions to different songs adds to their conclusion that there is meaning behind the various tunes.
Next, the scientists plan to study how particular genes and brain areas play into the songs the mice are singing. If they can figure out to what degree mice can learn to modify their songs, they say, it could be helpful in the study of autism spectrum disorders, where social communication and brain circuitry that affects learned behavior are impacted.
The Duke team's results were published April l in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.