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Small variations in breeding pools make for big differences in Yosemite toad use

USDA Invasive Species News -

The Yosemite toad (Anaxyrus canorus) is a rare species found exclusively in California's Sierra Nevada. While its range encompasses hundreds of miles, spanning five national forests and two national parks, the livelihood and future survival of this federally threatened species may come down to mere centimeters. Pools within alpine meadows to be suitable habitat for laying eggs and sustaining tadpoles, little things mean a lot.

Spineless creature studied in DC swamp

USDA Invasive Species News -

Its name is Stygobromus hayi, the Hay's Spring amphipod. It is spineless. It lacks vision. It is an opportunistic feeder, consuming whatever resources are available -- perhaps including the remains of its own kind. That is where its similarities to some of Washington, D.C.'s more notorious megafauna end. Researchers report on a way to survey it without threatening its existence, as other studies had done.

Muscle fibers alone can't explain sex differences in bird song

USDA Invasive Species News -

Male birds tend to be better singers than females -- but does the basis for this difference lie in the brain or in the syrinx, their equivalent of our larynx? The researchers behind a new study analyzed the muscle fibers in the syrinxes of male and female birds from a range of species and found, to their surprise, that the amount of 'superfast' muscle didn't explain differences in vocal ability between the sexes.

World's oldest fossil mushroom found

USDA Invasive Species News -

Roughly 115 million years ago, when the ancient supercontinent Gondwana was breaking apart, a mushroom fell into a river and began an improbable journey. Its ultimate fate as a mineralized fossil preserved in limestone in northeast Brazil makes it a scientific wonder, scientists report.

How can you tell deep-sea octopuses apart? Check their warts

USDA Invasive Species News -

Until now, there'd been no rigorous framework for telling apart two species of deep-sea octopuses -- they're both pink and warty. A new study, though, shows that the distribution of warts is an important means of telling the two species apart -- the octopuses from the Pacific are wartier than the ones from the Atlantic. That little piece of information could be a big help in ongoing deep-sea research.

Genetic study shakes up the elephant family tree

USDA Invasive Species News -

New research reveals that a species of giant elephant that lived 1.5 million to 100,000 years ago -- ranging across Eurasia before it went extinct -- is more closely related to today's African forest elephant than the forest elephant is to its nearest living relative, the African savanna elephant. Understanding elephant evolution is key to protecting present-day elephants from extinction, researchers say.

New way to detect Palmer amaranth in contaminated seedlots

USDA Invasive Species News -

Some seed mixtures planted on Conservation Reserve Program acres have been contaminated with Palmer amaranth, an aggressive weed. Seed producers must choose between time-consuming or expensive options to certify that their products are free of Palmer amaranth. A new assay can quickly detect Palmer amaranth in mixed seed lots at a comparatively low cost.

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