QUB researchers have shown that human-made sound, such as the boom of a ship's engine, makes common cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) change the complex swirls of skin hues, stripes, and spots that they use for camouflage and communication. Like other cephalopods, such as octopus and squid, cuttlefish rely on visual and tactile signals to communicate and there has been little evidence so far to suggest that they perceive or respond to sound. But when researchers placed a loudspeaker near cuttlefish tanks and played the sound of an underwater engine, the animals swam more and changed colours more often. They also raised their first pair of arms, which are used to sense water movements, more frequently, the team reports in this month's issue of The American Naturalist. The sounds of crashing surf had no effect, providing the first evidence that engine noise may stress the animals out. The fast colour changes could hinder camouflage when ships are near, increasing the animals' chances of being spotted by predators. Cuttlefish are important both as both predators and prey in marine ecosystems, thus, these changes might also ripple into wider impacts on life underwater. This work was highlighted recently in Science magazine - you can read the full article published in The American Naturalist.
A Queen's University Biological Sciences student has won an international award for being one of the brightest and most innovative students in the world.
QUB Marine Biology graduate, Maran Lowry, from the Strand Road area of Derry won the award in the Life Sciences Category for his paper entitled 'Assessing the Escapement Success of Migrating European Silver Eel (Anguilla anguilla L.) from Lough Neagh Using Acoustic Telemetry to Corroborate a Traditional Mark/Recapture Method'.
Maran's entry was amongst 5000 from over 200 universities right across the globe.
Along with the other five winners from Queen's University he has been invited to attend The Undergraduate Awards Global Summit, which is taking place in Dublin, Ireland from November 19th-21st. More...
Queen’s Communications Office press release.
A new study led by Dr Michael Scantlebury and co-researcher Dr Nikki Marks from Queen’s University Belfast into how cheetahs burn energy suggests that human activity, rather than larger predators, may force them to expend more energy and thus be the major cause of their decline.
Wild cheetahs are down to under 10,000 from 100,000 a century ago with conventional wisdom blaming bigger predators for monopolising available food as their habitat becomes restricted. The traditional thinking has been that cheetahs no longer have sufficient access to prey to fuel their enormous energy output when engaging in super-fast chases.
But, in the first study of its kind, published today in the international journal Science, academics from Queen’s, other Universities and conservation institutions have made the surprising discovery that, in the main, cheetahs do not use significantly more energy than other, similar-sized mammals.
The scientists also discovered that, in searching for prey, cheetahs incur more energy loss than in outbursts of running which, although spectacular, are infrequent. So, where their prey have been reduced or re-distributed through human impacts, their ability to balance energy budgets has been severely curtailed. More...
This summer, Vice-Chancellor Patrick Johnston and Head of School, Prof Christine Maggs conferred over 140 degrees from the School of Biological Sciences, including 19 PhDs and 10 MScs.
The School of Biological Sciences also presented several awards to students of exceptional merit, which included Laura Grimes (Tim Bramley Prize, Biochemistry Stage 3), Clare Diamond (Shirodaria Prize in Virology, Stage 3 Virology), Victoria Thompson (Alan Kirke Memorial Prize, Stage 3 Agricultural Technology), Damian Magill (Prize for Best Research Project in the School), Laura-Jane Willis (Safefood Prize for best essay in Food Quality and Safety), Laura-Jane Willis jointly with Orla McFadden (Yakult Prize, Stage 3 Food Quality, Safety and Nutrition), Francine Hammond (Yakult Prize for Best Project in Food, Safety and Nutrition), Amy Mornin (Best overall performance at Stage 2 in the School of Biological Sciences), Eithne Fraser (Best overall performance at Stage 1 in the School of Biological Sciences), Christine Fleming (Biochemical Society Prize, Stage 2) and Lydia Roets (OUP Achievement in Biosciences Prize, Stage 1).
Congratulations to Prof Christine Maggs (aqua fleece), who recently won the Award for Excellence from the Phycological Society of America and was presented the award at the Joint Aquatic Sciences meeting in Portland, Oregon, USA. This prestigious award recognises her as a phycologist who has demonstrated sustained scholarly contributions in, and impact upon, the field of phycology over her career, and for her distinguished service to PSA and other phycological societies.
QUB PhD student Rebecca Kyle's research, developing restoration methods for the highly endangered freshwater pearl mussel, Margaritifera margaritifera, was highlighted recently on BBC's Countryfile. Rebecca (wearing the red anorak) is working with the Ballinderry Fish Hatchery to help understand their biology and promote the conservation of these globally threatened species.
Learn more about the Ballinderry River pearl mussel breeding project.
Queen’s University scientists have discovered that greater mouse-eared bats use polarisation patterns in the sky to navigate, making it the first mammal that is known to do this.
The bats use the way the sun’s light is scattered in the atmosphere at sunset to calibrate their internal magnetic compass, which helps them to fly in the right direction, according to a study published in Nature Communications.
Despite this breakthrough, researchers have no idea how they manage to detect polarised light.
Dr Richard Holland, from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast, co-author of the study, said: “We know that other animals use polarisation patterns in the sky, and we have at least some idea how they do it: bees have specially-adapted photoreceptors in their eyes, and birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles all have cone cell structures in their eyes which may help them to detect polarisation. But we don’t know which structure these bats might be using.”
Polarisation patterns depend on where the sun is in the sky. They are clearest in a strip across the sky 90 degrees from the position of the sun at sunset or sunrise.
But animals can still see the patterns long after sunset. This means they can orient themselves even when they cannot see the sun, including when it is cloudy. Scientists have even shown that dung beetles use the polarisation pattern of moonlight for orientation.
A hugely diverse range of creatures – including bees, anchovies, birds, reptiles and amphibians – use the patterns as a compass to work out which way is north, south, east and west.
Stefan Greif, from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast, lead author of the study, said: “Every night through the spring, summer and autumn, bats leave their roosts in caves, trees and buildings to search for insect prey. They might range hundreds of kilometres in a night, but return to their roosts before sunrise to avoid predators. But, until now, how they achieved such feats of navigation was not clear. More...
QUB PhD student, Emmett Johnston, and Dr. Jon Houghton featured recently on Discovery Channel Canada's Daily Planet Shark Week.
Watch the clip on YouTube.
Shark week is Discovery Channel's flagship promotion and last year was the most watched event on the station and on American TV, outside of Sports events. Shark conservation and in particular shark finning is rapidly becoming the conservation battle of the new century. For more information visit the Irish Basking Shark Project website.
Queen’s University is delighted to introduce a brand new SCHOLARSHIPS PLUS AWARD
scheme for 2014 entry. You can choose between:
Scholarship awards up to £2,500 are available and apply to each year of study. [More...]