News in 2020

  • Shelling out for dinner: dolphins learn foraging skills from peers 26 June 2020 A new study demonstrates for the first time that dolphins can learn foraging techniques outside the mother-calf bond – showing that they have a similar cultural nature to great apes. The findings, led by an international research team including academics at the University of Bristol, are published in Current Biology.
  • Bizarre saber-tooth predator from South America was no saber-tooth cat 26 June 2020 A new study led by researchers from the University of Bristol has shown that not all saber-tooths were fearsome predators.
  • Insect crunching reptiles on ancient islands of the UK 18 June 2020 By analysing the fossilised jaw mechanics of reptiles who lived in the Severn Channel region of the UK 200-million-years ago, researchers from the University of Bristol have shown that they weren’t picky about the types of insects they ate - enjoying both crunchy and less crunchy varieties.
  • What are the effects of climate change on pollinators and human health? 12 June 2020 Three quarters of crop species depend on pollinators, but the service they provide is under increasing threat from climate change. An international collaboration, led by the University of Bristol, will investigate the effects of climate change on pollinators and people’s diet thanks to funding of nearly €1 million from The Belmont Forum.
  • ‘Matador’ guppies trick predators 12 June 2020 Trinidadian guppies behave like matadors, focusing a predator’s point of attack before dodging away at the last moment, new research shows.
  • Extinct camelids reveal insights about North America’s ancient savannas 11 June 2020 A new study looking at extinct camelids - ancestors of today’s camels and llamas - tells the story of North America’s ancient savannas and highlights how past climatic and environmental conditions influenced the composition of mammalian faunas.
  • Disorder in fish shoals may reap rewards at dinner time 2 June 2020 The advantages of animals foraging in an orderly group are well-known, but research by the University of Bristol has found an element of unruly adventure can help fish in the quest for food.
  • When Somerset lay beneath the sea 1 June 2020 In a new study, University of Bristol geologists show how the Mendip Hills in Somerset were overwhelmed by the ocean more than 200 million years ago.
  • Evolution of colour vision in sea snakes 29 May 2020 New research has revealed the evolution of colour vision in elapid snakes following their transition from terrestrial to fully marine environments, and for the first time, provided evidence of where, when and how frequently the species have adapted their ability to see in colour.
  • Bristol scientists see through glass frogs’ translucent camouflage 26 May 2020 Glass frogs are well known for their see-through skin but, until now, the reason for this curious feature has received no experimental attention.
  • Ancient giant armoured fish fed in a similar way to basking sharks 20 May 2020 Scientists from the University of Bristol and the University of Zurich have shown that the Titanichthys – a giant armoured fish that lived in the seas and oceans of the late Devonian period 380-million-years ago – fed in a similar manner to modern day basking sharks.
  • Analysis of 10,000 bird species reveals how wings adapted to their environment and behaviour 18 May 2020 Bird wings adapted for long-distance flight are linked to their environment and behaviour, according to new research on an extensive database of wing measurements, led by the University of Bristol.
  • Eavesdropping crickets drop from the sky to evade capture from bats 18 May 2020 Researchers have uncovered the highly efficient strategy used by a group of crickets to distinguish the calls of predatory bats from the incessant noises of the nocturnal jungle. The findings, led by scientists at the Universities of Bristol and Graz in Austria and published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, reveal the crickets eavesdrop on the vocalisations of bats to help them escape their grasp when hunted.
  • Colin Pennycuick FRS, 1933-2019 6 May 2020 Royal Society Fellow and Bristol Honorary Professor Colin Pennycuick passed away in December 2019. Professor Gareth Jones offers this remembrance.
  • Vexing Nemo: motorboat noise makes clownfish stressed and aggressive 9 April 2020 Hormonal changes caused by motorboat noise cause clownfish to hide, skip meals and attack their neighbours - putting damselfish in distress.
  • Plant root hairs key to reducing soil erosion 6 April 2020 The tiny hairs found on plant roots play a pivotal role in helping reduce soil erosion, a new study has found. The research, led by the University of Bristol and published in Communications Biology, provides compelling evidence that when root hairs interact with the surrounding soil they reduce soil erosion and increase soil cohesion by binding soil particles.
  • Natural light flicker can help prevent detection 2 April 2020 Movement breaks camouflage, making it risky for anything trying to hide. New research, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B today [1 April] has shown that dynamic features common in many natural habitats, such as moving light patterns, can reduce being located when moving.
  • Cooperative male dolphins match the tempo of each other's calls 1 April 2020 When it comes to working together, male dolphins coordinate their behaviour just like us. New findings, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B by an international team of researchers from the Universities of Western Australia and Bristol, provide insight into the importance of physical and vocal coordination in alliance forming animals.
  • Global study shows how marine species respond as oceans warm 27 March 2020 A global analysis of over 300 marine species spanning more than 100 years, shows that mammals, plankton, fish, plants and seabirds have been changing in abundance as our climate warms.
  • Tropical forests’ carbon sink is already rapidly weakening 5 March 2020 The ability of the world’s tropical forests to remove carbon from the atmosphere is decreasing, according to a study tracking 300,000 trees over 30 years, published today in Nature.
  • Deaf moths evolved noise-cancelling scales to evade prey 26 February 2020 Some species of deaf moths can absorb as much as 85 per cent of the incoming sound energy from predatory bats — who use echolocation to detect them. The findings, published in Royal Society Interface today [26 February], reveal the moths, who are unable to hear the ultrasonic calls of bats, have evolved this clever defensive strategy to help it survive.
  • Gene loss more important in animal kingdom evolution than previously thought 25 February 2020 Scientists have shown that some key points of animal evolution — like the ones leading to humans or insects — were associated with a large loss of genes in the genome. The study, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution [today 24 February], compared over 100 genomes to investigate what happened at the gene level during the evolution of animals after their origin.
  • Mya-Rose Craig becomes youngest Briton to be awarded honorary degree 20 February 2020 A 17-year-old birder, conservationist and environmental campaigner became the youngest British person to be awarded an honorary degree today [20 February].
  • CT scanning an ancient armoured reptile 17 February 2020 The aetosaurs were heavily armoured reptiles that lived in many parts of the world in the Triassic period, some 225 million years ago. For the first time, a student at the University of Bristol has CT scanned a specimen to understand how the armour worked.
  • Boom and bust for ancient sea dragons 13 February 2020 A new study by scientists from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, shows a well-known group of extinct marine reptiles had an early burst in their diversity and evolution - but that a failure to adapt in the long-run may have led to their extinction.
  • Sheep know the grass isn’t always greener when it comes to their health 6 February 2020 Sheep appear to forage and avoid parasites differently depending on how healthy they are, according to new University of Bristol research published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The study, which used remote GPS sensing data to monitor the foraging patterns of sheep, revealed less healthy animals chose to avoid high-quality vegetation due to a higher prevalence of ticks.
  • How the development of skulls and beaks made Darwin’s famous finches one of the most diverse species of birds 4 February 2020 Darwin’s finches are among the most celebrated examples of adaptive radiation in the evolution of modern vertebrates and now a new study, led by scientists from the University of Bristol, has provided fresh insights into their rapid development and evolutionary success.
  • Brilliant iridescence can conceal as well as attract 24 January 2020 A new study shows for the first time that the striking iridescent colours seen in some animals increase their chances of survival against predators by acting as a means of camouflage. Rather than reveal it seems these dynamically changing shades are used to conceal, according to the University of Bristol study published today [23 January] in Current Biology.
  • How Bristol drones could help save our most endangered species 21 January 2020 The University of Bristol and the Bristol Zoological Society (BZS) are pioneering a new approach to wildlife conservation, involving machine-learning and drone technology, which could impact wildlife conservation projects worldwide.
  • Winners of 2019/20 Cabot Institute Innovation Fund announced 21 January 2020 Winners of the Cabot Institute Innovation Fund for 2019/2020 have been announced. The funds are aimed at supporting bold, ambitious, and impactful ideas, that transcend disciplinary boundaries. It offers the Cabot Institute an opportunity to invite new ideas from our research community – those that might not receive funding from traditional sources, but which show real intellectual or practical promise.
  • A chronicle of giant straight-tusked elephants 21 January 2020 About 800,000 years ago, the giant straight-tusked elephant Palaeoloxodon migrated out of Africa and became widespread across Europe and Asia.
  • Scientists uncover how an explosion of new genes explain the origin of land plants 20 January 2020 Scientists have made a significant discovery about the genetic origins of how plants evolved from living in water to land 470 million years ago.
  • Animals should use short, fast movements to avoid being located 16 January 2020 Most animals need to move, whether this is to seek out food, shelter or a mate. New research has shown that movement doesn't always break camouflage and if an animal needs to move, animals that are unpatterned and use short, fast movements are less likely to be located by predators.
  • Animals reduce the symmetry of their markings to improve camouflage 16 January 2020 Some forms of camouflage have evolved in animals to exploit a loophole in the way predators perceive their symmetrical markings. The University of Bristol findings, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B today [15 Jan], describe how animals have evolved to mitigate this defensive disadvantage in their colouration.
  • Sustainable student start-up raises £2.35 million in seed funding 13 January 2020 A group of University of Bristol alumni have secured £2.35 million in seed funding to grow and develop their award-winning, climate-crisis-combatting farming company LettUs Grow, in an investment round led by Longwall Venture Partners LLP.
  • Protecting two key regions in Belize could save threatened jaguar, say scientists 7 January 2020 Scientists studying one of the largest populations of jaguars in Central Belize have identified several wildlife corridors that should be protected to help the species survival. The study, led by the University of Bristol and the American Museum of Natural History and published in BMC Genetics, provide a new insight into where conservation efforts should be concentrated.
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