BRITTANY STEFF | Science Writer

Cicada Snacks: The Wild (and Tasty) Side of Brood X at the Zoo

They slumber underground for 16 summers, nestled near tree roots, sipping xylem — the nutrient-poor water inside tree tissues. Then, as ground temperatures rise on the 17th summer, they emerge and begin blindly burrowing their way toward the surface, bursting forth to a summer of song, flight and love. It sounds like a spooky fairy tale but in fact, it’s the actual true story of the 17-year Brood X cicadas and for some Zoo animals, the beginning of a tasty bug buffet.

Invasive Hedgehogs and Ferrets Habituate to and Categorize Smells

To catch a thief, the saying goes, you have to think like a thief. The same is true for invasive predators: to foil their depredations on native wildlife, scientists have to understand how they think. A new study published in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Ecological Applications examines how invasive mammalian predators both habituate to and generalize avian prey cues.

Lost Harlequin Toads

Our top “most wanted” lost harlequin toads include species that have been lost to science for at least a decade (and often for much longer!) and, like our top 25 “most wanted” species, may be lost for a variety of reasons. We worked with the Atelopus Survival Initiative to determine this list of lost harlequin toads. In some cases, biologists may be actively out searching—or interested in going out to search—for these species. In other cases, these species represent the kinds of compelling stories that can help raise their group’s public profile, even if nobody is out actively looking.

Eritrean Gazelles: Once Lost, and Now Found in Their Namesake Country

Like a mirage in the desert, a long-missing gazelle species has reappeared as if from thin air in Eritrea. The Eritrean Gazelle is an endangered species that lives within the horn of Africa, primarily along the Nile River. But for more than 80 years, no Eritrean Gazelles had been reported in Eritrea. That changed this April when GWC associate Futsum Hagos was conducting a wildlife survey.

The Superheroes Of The Squirrel World: Flying Squirrels

Say the word “squirrel” and everyone pictures nearly the same thing: bushy tail, buckteeth, ornery personality, and a propensity for burgling their way into people’s birdfeeders. However, there’s another type of squirrel; a more exotic, arguably cooler cousin that lurks like ninjas in the night: the flying squirrels. Nocturnal, big-eyed, and tuft-eared, flying squirrels live throughout the world, including in the eastern United States and the northwest coast.

Tiny Lost-And-Found Toad Becomes Harbinger Of Hope

Six years ago a conservation biologist and his friend, a herpetologist, hiked into a little-explored rainforest in northern Ecuador to conduct the first-ever survey of reptiles and amphibians in the site. On the very first night in the field, they stumbled upon a tiny toad about 100 meters from their cabin—a toad that left them perplexed. It was the long-lost (and now found) Tandayapa Andes Toad (Rhaebo olallai), found in a place the species hadn’t been found before, in a region that is staggeringly remote and difficult to explore.
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Spe·cies rich·ness  (noun)

  1. A technical term from the field of ecology. The number of different species present in an ecological community, landscape, or region.
  2. More philosophically, a lovely and poetic phrase that conveys the value and wonder inherent in the range of species on the planet and in all the amazing detail of the living world.
  3. A freelance science writer's call sign (see above).

I am a science writer, editor, blogger, and creative communicator who is passionate about innovative, informative and inspiring storytelling. Email me