Tanya Loos

Tanya Loos is an ecologist and science writer based in regional Victoria, Australia.

Tanya Loos is an ecologist and science writer based in regional Victoria, Australia.

  • How do colourful birds protect themselves?

    Researchers unravel the mystery with Australasian lorikeets.

    The dazzling array of colours that birds display – some that humans can’t even see – are more than awe-inspiring eye ...

    March 8, 2020
  • Untangling branches in the mammal tree of life

    Research allows comparisons among distantly related lineages.

    A new approach to the mammalian tree of life allows comparison between mammals as distantly related as a platypus and...

    December 16, 2019
  • Rare breeding behaviour in Californian bird

    The phainopepla migrates across vastly different habitats.

    GPS data suggests that Phainopeplas breed in two different locations each year. They would be only the third bird sp...

    October 15, 2019
  • Great apes may be smarter than we think

    Study shows they can anticipate others’ actions.

    Great apes can use self-experience to anticipate others’ actions, providing yet more evidence of a theory of mind in ...

    September 30, 2019
  • He’s a dark horse, the dark-spotted giraffe

    The colour of their spots could reflect social status.

    New research finds that coat colour in male giraffes may function as a signal of social status, not age as previously...

    September 29, 2019
  • Geography impacts pika distribution

    Not genetic variability as previously thought.

    A large-scale analysis of the small bunny-like American pika’s movements has revealed their distribution is ecologica...

    September 24, 2019
  • Girl songbirds like a guy who can really sing

    Research adds a new piece to the evolutionary puzzle.

    New research reveals that the evolution of song learning in male birds may be driven by female bird choice. By select...

    September 16, 2019
  • Why does this frog come in two different colours?

    Study uncovers where diversity flourishes against the odds.

    A toxic frog with two colour forms is helping researchers unpack the diversity and evolution of anti-predator prey si...

    September 5, 2019
  • 50 million years needed for NZ’s birds to recover

    When whole lineages go extinct, what are the impacts?

    The kakapo or owl parrot (Strigops habroptilus) is one of the bird species endemic to New Zealand. Andrew Digby / C...

    August 5, 2019
  • The globe-trotting fungus-lover

    Alison Pouliot keeps on the move to pursue her passion.

    Alison Pouliot has spent two decades following the fungi. Each year she moves between Australia and her adopted home...

    June 23, 2019
  • Frogs make mental maps

    Evidence of cognitive mapping outside birds and mammals.

    A cognitive map is a mental representation of the external world, and our place in it, allowing us to plot the most e...

    June 10, 2019
  • Research finds monkey calls are probabilistic

    Primate study offers clues to the evolution of human speech.

    An analysis of a complex alarm call sequence in monkeys may provide clues to the evolution of meaning in human langua...

    May 15, 2019
  • Dogs trained to find endangered insects

    Canine ‘citizen-scientists’ are helping map a rare fly population. Tanya Loos reports.

    Bayar, a trained insect-detecting dog, with an alpine stonefly.Julia MynottIn a world first, dogs in Australia have b...

    May 8, 2019
  • Lions v porcupines. Porcupine wins

    When times are tough, lions will try and eat porcupines.

    Lions preying on porcupines often come off second best, sometimes lethally so, researchers have discovered. African ...

    May 7, 2019
  • Giant pandas metabolise like hyper-carnivores

    Analysis finds bamboo specialists function like meat-eaters.

    Giant pandas adoption of bamboo as a sole food source has puzzled scientists for decades. Now a macronutrient analysi...

    May 2, 2019
  • ‘Unicorn’ whales doing well

    That’s despite poor genetic diversity.

    Narwhals, the one-horned “unicorns” of the Arctic Sea, have surprisingly low genetic diversity for such a thriving po...

    May 1, 2019
  • River dolphins turn out to be talkative

    They have a much greater vocal range than previously thought.

    A rare river dolphin thought to be solitary and mostly silent has been revealed to make hundreds of sounds, raising q...

    April 23, 2019
  • Researchers identify a Babel Fish for bees

    Project reveals a honeybee universal language.

    Scientists have created a codex which grants researchers worldwide a universal understanding of the honeybee “waggle ...

    April 1, 2019
  • Frog fungus: 500 species face extinction

    Global survey of chytridiomycosis yields grim results.

    A fungus which kills frogs is among the most destructive invasive species ever recorded, pushing more than 500 amphib...

    March 28, 2019
  • Mother birds live longer with help from friends

    Females who raise chicks cooperatively age slower.

    Help at the nest means a longer life for mother Seychelles warblers, research reveals. Mothers who have help raising...

    March 25, 2019
  • Invasive species spells disaster

    Yellowstone lake hammered by an interloping trout.

    Just one species of invasive predatory fish has created extensive changes in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in Ye...

    March 20, 2019
  • Sea otters leave archaeological evidence

    Anvils and bite marks leave characteristic traces.

    Sea otters pounding mussels on rocks on the shoreline create distinctive traces which can be studied using methods of...

    March 14, 2019
  • Amoebas diversified earlier than thought

    Study challenges standard view on ancient diversity.

    Amoebas diversified at least 750 million years ago, far earlier than previously thought, researchers have revealed. ...

    March 5, 2019
  • Rainfall and temperature determine plumage

    Environment determines compounds of bright feathers.

    In most bird species, brown and black feather colours are composed of melanin, and the orange, yellow, and red ones a...

    February 14, 2019
  • Honeybees can do maths

    The insects understand both subtraction and addition.

    Honeybees (Apis mellifera) are capable of arithmetic, showing proficiency in addition and subtraction, new research r...

    February 6, 2019
  • The squirrels that are secretly bright pink

    Accidental exposure reveals some species are candy coloured.

    To human eyes, flying squirrels of the Glaucomys genus have soft brown fur, with a snowy white underside.  To one ano...

    February 4, 2019
  • You’re eating what?

    Pandas haven’t always had a bamboo-only menu.

    Giant pandas are famed for eating only bamboo, and their skulls, teeth and even paws have morphological adaptations t...

    January 31, 2019
  • Unravelling the secrets of satyrisation

    It’s important to understand when and why mossies don’t mate. Tanya Loos reports.

    US researchers have added another piece to the puzzle that is satyrisation, one of the most complex aspects of the mo...

    January 27, 2019
  • Invasive species may travel trade routes

    Study finds “lethal combination” of introduction risk and habitat suitability.

    Invasive species could increase their global presence via China’s developing trade routes, researchers warn. A new s...

    January 24, 2019
  • Soils hit hard by fire and logging

    Research shows the impact is much greater than we feared.

    Forest soils need up to 80 years to recover from fires and at least 30 years to recover from logging, far longer than...

    January 23, 2019
  • Meet the beetle that lives and eats in ant nests

    Rarely seen species lives entirely on carpenter ant juices.

    An ant-loving Ozaena beetle. Credit: Wendy Moore (2019) Ant smoothie, anyone? A species of ground beetle subsists ...

    January 16, 2019
  • Altered fire patterns put species at risk

    Fires are critical to ecosystems – but not always in a good way.

    History, landscape fragmentation and invasive species interact to influence species distribution decline in landscape...

    January 7, 2019
  • Parrots forced into unnatural behaviour

    Predation is turning birds promiscuous.

    A chronic shortage of females is causing a social system breakdown in a critically endangered Australian parrot, forc...

    December 6, 2018
  • Found: a lactating spider

    Jumping spiders suckle their young for longer than mice.

    A new study reveals a species of jumping spider in which newly hatched young are entirely dependent on a maternally e...

    November 29, 2018
  • The relationship between ants and plants

    Ants and plants have many complex symbiotic relationships.

    A study of ants and plant evolution reveals that the former were relying on the latter as sources of food and habitat...

    November 12, 2018
  • Cats or rats? Rats win in NY hands down

    Contrary to myth, alley cats are hopeless at catching rats.

    Feral cats fail to fulfil their role as rat controllers in New York City, new research reveals. Cats (Felis catus) ar...

    September 27, 2018
  • Butterfly pupae ‘twerk’, but we don’t know why

    Researchers discover mechanism unique among insects.

    Butterfly pupae create high frequency twittering sounds by twerking. New research published in the Annals of the Ent...

    September 16, 2018
  • Venoms promise new drug targets

    Research techniques offer exciting new possibilitie

    Venoms contain powerful proteins with fast acting precision and a wide range of devastating effects, but only six ven...

    September 3, 2018
  • Parrots play the odds when making decisions

    Macaws can delay gratification to maximise reward.

    When it comes to delaying gratification for greater reward, parrots compare well with chimpanzees and out-perform cap...

    August 27, 2018
  • Dodo relative lived in New Zealand

    A fossil dove was a close relative of the iconic pigeon.

    The dodo’s family tree has gained another member:  the Zealandian dove. Researchers have described a new species of ...

    August 23, 2018
  • For cliff-dwelling birds, pointy eggs are best

    Egg shape and physics are critical for survival of species.

    A study confirms that for cliff-nesting birds, pointy eggs are best. Common murres or guillemots (Uria aalge) are sm...

    August 22, 2018
  • Natural selection as karma

    Insect living off a tree is target for different type of predator.

    A parasitic plant known as the love vine grows on oak trees, and also feeds upon gall wasps. The researchers who disc...

    August 20, 2018
  • Tibetan sheep carry the plague

    Breed of sheep represents an unusual transmission route.

    On the highlands of China and Tibet, people slaughtering and eating Tibetan sheep are at risk of contracting plague. ...

    August 16, 2018
  • Captured elephants die sooner captive-bred

    Records show that being taken from the wild shortens life-span.

    Wild elephants captured and put to work in Myanmar’s logging industry don’t live as long as their captive-bred counte...

    August 7, 2018
  • Fish goes from egg to maturity in just 14 days

    Vertebrate body combined with invertebrate survival strategy.

    The turquoise killifish (Nothobranchius furzeri) from Africa can reach sexual maturity in just 14 days, making it the...

    August 7, 2018
  • Island life gives birds bigger brains

    Clever individuals do best in restricted environments.

    Birds that live on oceanic islands have larger brains than their relatives on the mainland, new research shows. And t...

    August 1, 2018
  • Bushland and farmland don’t always mix

    Relying on natural habitat for pest control doesn’t always work.

    Despite an analysis of the largest dataset of its kind, a simple landscape model for accurate pest control prediction...

    August 1, 2018
  • Fruit flies warn other species of wasp danger

    Fruit flies can learn the dialects of other species.

    Fruit flies can learn the dialects of other fly species after a period of living together, new research published in ...

    July 23, 2018
  • Declining dung imperils custard apples

    As large animals disappear, dependent plants hit trouble.

    For a tropical custard apple tree species, bigger is definitely better, as new research reveals that smaller herbivor...

    July 19, 2018
  • Electric fish filters out its own signals

    Researchers close in on a vital aspect of perception – the ability to conduct internal noise-canc...

    New research on the elephant-nose fish (Gnathonemus petersii) has brought neuroscientists a step closer to understand...

    July 11, 2018
  • Parent birds don’t like the kids hanging around

    Nestlings that overstay their welcome endanger the brood.

    When is the best time to leave the nest? That’s the dilemma encountered by birds the world over. Staying home longer...

    June 20, 2018
  • Mantis shrimps target weakest part of the shell

    They position their prey and attack the vulnerable section.

    Mantis shrimps, from the genus Stomatopoda, are famed for the impact force of their tiny club-shaped claws. The speed...

    June 14, 2018
  • Dolphins grieve for their dead

    Interpretation of the grieving remains contested.

    A female dolphin may carry its deceased calf around for days, until the body is in such a state of decomposition that...

    June 14, 2018
  • Human med offers hope to turtles with tumours

    Genetic similarities suggest an improved treatment strategy.

    Tumours in sea turtles may be able to be treated using cancer treatments available to humans. A study published in th...

    June 7, 2018
  • Zombie fungus enslaves ants based on climate

    Victims’ fate changes between tropical and temperate settings.

    A fungus that turns ants into zombies has survived the global shift from tropical to temperate forests by subtly alte...

    May 29, 2018
  • Stick insects expand territory via bird poo

    Study finds slow-moving adult insects rely on being eaten.

    For most insects and their eggs, it’s “game over” when eaten by a predator such as a bird. Now, new research has reve...

    May 28, 2018
  • Asteroid wiped out all but six types of bird

    All species descend from handful of ground-dwelling survivors.

    Sixty-six million years ago, an asteroid struck the Earth and created a mass extinction event, ending the reign of th...

    May 24, 2018
  • The secret of the green-blooded lizards

    Green blood evolved independently four times.

    There are several lizard species in New Guinea with green blood, instead of the usual red. The lime green colour is d...

    May 17, 2018
  • Reducing big predators encourages little ones

    Culling cats and foxes doesn’t stop birds being eaten.

    The removal of feral cats and foxes in an effort to protect native bird populations may be counterproductive, placing...

    May 14, 2018
  • The world’s only colony-building beetle

    Ambrosia beetles build queen-led communities in trees.

    It sounds like a science fiction story starring beetles: a queen beetle, or “foundress”, establishes a colony in the ...

    May 6, 2018
  • Sons and plovers: young birds are mummy’s boys

    Male red plovers raise daughters, and females look after sons.

    Australia’s smallest shorebird, the red-capped plover, is a sexually dimorphic species, with a brightly coloured male...

    April 30, 2018
  • Early springs mean less food for hungry nestlings

    Common woodland birds face an evolutionary challenge as climate change bites. Tanya Loos reports.

    For millennia, the oak forests of Britain have had a tightly timed spring-summer cycle – the oak leaves unfurl, the c...

    April 29, 2018
  • Against the odds, cicada teens meet and mate

    Gene flow between species, despite only met every 200 years.

    Members of the cicada genus Magicicada are known as “periodical”, because of their mathematically precise life histor...

    April 22, 2018
  • Top ten most popular animals are still endangered

    Popularity itself may be making the situation worse.

    Researchers have identified the ten most charismatic animals worldwide, and all of them are endangered. And, paradoxi...

    April 12, 2018
  • Young, hive-bound bees confused by chemicals

    Even bees that never leave the hive can be exposed.

    Hive-bound young honey bees (Apis mellifera) are being poisoned by insecticide and weed killer gathered by their fora...

    April 11, 2018
  • Mutation lets knifefish pack a punch

    A relative of the electric eel is nature’s current favourite.

    An unassuming fish from South America has the ability to deliver fast and powerful electric shocks, without even usin...

    March 27, 2018
  • City blackbirds are sicker, but longer lived

    Study finds biomarkers for city birds sound warnings.

    Blackbirds in urban areas are in poorer health than their country cousins but, paradoxically, are living longer. Com...

    March 21, 2018
  • Female birdsong ignored, researchers say

    Dismissing female song as irrelevant is a serious error.

    In one of the stranger expressions of gender inequality, female birdsong has been largely ignored by ornithologists, ...

    March 15, 2018
  • Hummingbirds may not hear themselves

    Discovery of a species that calls at a pitch higher than others.

    Hummingbirds in the Brazilian forest are singing to one another at a higher frequency than the known hearing range of...

    March 6, 2018
  • Magic mushrooms kill the appetite

    Gene transfer may be behind the hallucinogenic compound.

    New research on the evolutionary genetics of fungi reveals that the compound that makes some mushrooms ‘magic’ may ha...

    March 5, 2018
  • Dolphins plan their dives

    They gather intelligence useful for future hunts.

    Dolphins have been found to ignore the pressing need to breathe in order to plan for their next hunting dive, a behav...

    February 28, 2018
  • Hosting viruses is a cost of flying

    Research uncovers how bats host diseases without being affected.

    If a human contracts a virus such as Ebola, he or she would be dead within days. Yet members of the bat family are na...

    February 22, 2018
  • Lemurs recognise their kin in photos

    Wild lemurs can tell their own species from another.

    Red-fronted lemurs can recognise their own species in photographs. Many species of lemur have distinctively patterne...

    February 13, 2018
  • Woodpeckers sustain brain damage

    Study finds protein associated with concussion and dementia.

    Woodpeckers may be getting brain damage from pecking wood, which adds intriguing possibilities to their role as a mod...

    February 4, 2018
  • Warmer temperatures cause birds to shrink

    Maximum temperatures a big influence on body size.

    The common house sparrow (Passer domesticus) hopping about your feet at a cafe or train station may provide clues int...

    January 24, 2018
  • Hawaiian exotics show genetic drift

    Invasive species lends understanding to evolutionary process.

    An invasive bird population in Hawaii provides a window into genetic drift – evolutionary changes typically seen over...

    January 17, 2018
  • For straight line motion, snakes first relax

    US research confirms a 70-year-old idea.

    Snakes are well known for their sinuous, side-winding movements, but they can also move in a straight line, like a tr...

    January 15, 2018
  • Ants kill the sick to save the rest

    Research finds ants practice “destructive disinfection”.

    Ants practice infanticide to protect the health of the colony. The invasive garden ant (Lasius neglectus) takes the ...

    January 14, 2018
  • Warmer waters dumb down food webs

    Boosted blue-green algae spells trouble for marine herbivores and predators.

    Blue-green algae proliferation caused by climate change could drive marine food webs to simple, less productive ecosy...

    January 9, 2018
  • “Walking nose” crabs smell predator pee

    Chemicals in big crab urine prompt little crabs to hide.

    Mud crabs sense danger by detecting chemicals in the urine of another crab species of crab that preys on them.  Mud ...

    January 8, 2018
  • Worldwide coral bleaching has sped up dramatically in 30 years

    International data predicts annual reef bleaching is a real possibility. Tanya Loos reports.

    The time between coral bleaching events at multiple reef locations has decreased five-fold in the past four decades, ...

    January 4, 2018

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