News archive - 2015

Wolfson Foundation donates £2m towards future of science at Exeter

Exeter has received a £2 million gift from The Wolfson Foundation to support the establishment of a new Living Systems Institute, which will pioneer a new approach to treating the world’s most serious diseases.

Plastic pollution threatens one of the ocean’s key inhabitants

Microscopic plastic pollution, which is present throughout the world’s seas, could affect the feeding habits of one of the ocean’s key inhabitants.

Wild pollinators at risk from diseased commercial species of bee

A new study from the University of Exeter has found that viruses carried by commercial bees can jump to wild pollinator populations with potentially devastating effects. 

Study reveals why geese adopt a ‘roller coaster strategy’ to combat life’s highs and lows

A new study has discovered that the world’s highest flying bird, the bar-headed goose, employs an unusual flight strategy when migrating at extreme altitudes across the Himalayas in order to cope in the relatively low-density mountain atmosphere.

Captive breeding influences pond snail behaviour

Research carried out at the University of Exeter has discovered a behavioural change in laboratory reared pond snails following a period of isolation relative to wild snails.

You can be a coward or a fighter. Just pick one and stick with it, says study

When the chips are down, having a strong personality may be the difference between thriving and failing.

Critical green turtle habitats identified in Mediterranean

A new study led by the University of Exeter has identified two major foraging grounds of the Mediterranean green turtle 

Night skies brightest in human history

Artificial sky glow around the world has been quantified for the first time by researchers using a global network of sky quality monitors.

Algae aid corals in their fight against climate change

Corals may be better equipped to tolerate climate change than previously believed, according to research led by the University of Exeter.

Weekend evolution: Bacteria ‘hotwire their genes’ to fix a faulty motor

Scientists have found how simple bacteria can restart their ‘outboard motor’ by hotwiring their own genes.

Hormone disrupting chemicals and climate change increase the risk of population-level impacts in wildlife populations

The impact of pollution on wildlife could be made dramatically worse by climate change according to a new study published today in the journal PNAS. 

‘No take zones’ in English Channel would benefit marine wildlife and the fishing industry

Marine conservationists are increasingly pinning their hopes on marine protected areas (MPAs) to save threatened species and reduce over-fishing.

Being smart about SMART environmental targets

Successful environmental conservation needs to focus on the negotiation process, not just the end target.

Love, love me do: male beetles that have more sex are more insecure, study shows

Males that mate more often are more insecure about their social status than those mating less, according to new research on the behaviour of burying beetles.

Nature’s inbuilt immune defence could protect industrial bacteria from viruses

Findings from a new study that set out to investigate the evolution of immune defences could boost the development of industrial bacteria that are immune to specific viral infections.

Light pollution shown to affect plant growth and food webs

Artificial night time light from sources such as street lamps affects the growth and flowering of plants and even the number of insects that depend on those plants for food.

Switch off the lights for bats

New research has discredited the popular belief that street lighting is attractive to common bats.

Part-night lighting is ineffective in capturing natural peaks in bat activity

Part-night lighting, a proposed mitigation option to reduce the negative impacts of light pollution, is unlikely to benefit bats, a study published this week confirms.

A difficult climate: New study examines the media’s response to the IPCC

A study, published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, has for the first time analysed how Twitter, TV and newspapers reported the IPCC’s climate evidence.

Biodiversity damage mapped by global land-use study

Humanity’s use of land for agricultural production has come at a cost to local ecosystems worldwide, but some of the damage can be reversed.

Scientists describe a new alga that may help corals adapt to climate change

Changes in ocean chemistry associated with climate change are exacerbating the global decline of coral reefs.

Public urged to report basking shark sightings for new tracking project

The University of Exeter and the Marine Conservation Society are joining forces in an exciting new satellite tracking project to tag and follow basking sharks in Cornish waters.

Warming seas pose habitat risk for fishy favourites

Popular North Sea fish such as haddock, plaice and lemon sole could become less common on our menus because they will be constrained to preferred habitat as seas warm.

Plant pests and pathogens under the crosshair in Penryn

The British Ecological Society brings together experts from around the world this July to discuss the challenges plant pests and pathogens pose to global food security and ecosystem resilience.

University of Exeter needs local people to hear or catch sight of a cuckoo

The people of Devon are being urged to get involved in the second phase of a project which is trying to map the movements of cuckoos.

New Zealand stoats provide an ark for genetic diversity

Extinct British genes have been preserved in the stoat population of New Zealand, a new study has found.

Male beetles up their game when they catch a whiff of competition

Male flour beetles increase their courtship effort and their sperm count if a female smells of other males according to a study published in the journal Behavioural Ecology.

Elderly crickets are set in their ways, study finds

As insects grow old their behaviour becomes increasingly predictable according to new research.

Coastal light pollution disturbs marine animals, new study shows

Marine ecosystems can be changed by night-time artificial lighting according to new research.

Grant success for University of Exeter researchers at Cornwall’s Wave Hub

University of Exeter researchers are part of the biodiversity research team of a new EUR 17 million EU Horizon 2020 funded project 

Scientists discover an additional function for the peroxisome protein Pex11p

New study in PNAS shows membrane remodelling protein Peroxin 11 (Pex11p) plays a role in peroxisomal fission. Organelle fission is crucial for human health and development as it regulates the number of peroxisomes inside the cells.

Mining pollution alters fish genetics in south west England

Pollution from historic mining activities in south west England has led to a reduction in genetic diversity of brown trout.

Exeter bioscientist awarded prestigious European Research Council Consolidator Grant

Dr Ivana Gudelj from Biosciences has been awarded a European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant worth €2 million over the next 5 years.

On the trail of the clever snail

Animals, like humans, excel at some tasks but not others according to a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports

Study reveals largest turtle breeding colony in the Atlantic

The Central African country of Gabon is providing an invaluable nesting ground for a vulnerable species of sea turtle 

Frogs face virus risk in garden ponds

Pond owners are being urged not to use garden chemicals, or to release goldfish into ponds.

Ladybird colours reveal their toxicity

For one of Britain’s best-loved and colourful group of insects, ladybirds, their colour reveals the extent of their toxicity.

Wild mongooses avoid inbreeding with unusual reproductive strategy

Mongooses can discriminate between relatives and non-relatives to avoid inbreeding 

Exeter researchers lead international initiative to face devastating crop disease

Exeter researchers lead international initiative to face devastating crop disease 

University of Exeter scientist elected President of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB)

Professor Nina Wedell has been elected President of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB) by its membership, and will serve as President Elect 2015-2017, President 2017-2019, and Past President 2019-2020.

Local schools join the fight against bacterial resistance

Researchers from Biosciences will be working closely with school pupils from Newton Abbot College to discover new antibiotics from soil bacteria.

Exeter researchers and school pupils track ticks to reveal Lyme disease hotspots

University of Exeter researchers are set to work with local school pupils on a new study to explore the distribution of Lyme disease in the region. 

Study concludes that racehorses are getting faster

A new study from the University of Exeter has found that racehorses are getting quicker

Scientists identify a potential new role for the mitotic protein Misato

Professor James Wakefield's lab, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Rome, have found that the Misato protein has a central role in ensuring animal cells have enough of the building blocks required for cell division.

Think you know your cat? New study suggests not

Study finds pet owners reluctant to face up to their cats’ kill count

Monaco meeting considers Antarctica's future

ESI Director part of influential international group considering Antarctica's future and biodiversity.

Pesticide study shows that sexual conflict can maintain genetic variation

New research from the University of Exeter has shown that the sexually antagonistic gene for resistance to the pesticide DDT helps to maintain genetic variation. 

Humans across the world dance to the same beat

Study reveals a common beat in global music

Key element of human language discovered in bird babble

New study deciphers bird sounds to reveal language precursors in babbler birds

Devon pupils lead citizen science on plastic

Young people will take part in a unique outreach project in which they will lead and participate in a scientific research project on chemicals in plastic food packaging.

Genetic switch detects TNT

Cleaning-up post-war explosive chemicals could get cheaper and easier, using a new genetic ‘switch’ device.

Scientists warn of species loss due to man-made landscapes

Study found 35% fewer bird species in agricultural habitats.

Romeo and Juliet roles for banded mongooses

Mongooses take life-threatening risks to mate with partners from rival groups.

Brawling badgers age faster

Research reveals the strain of living with competitive males

Future looks gloomy for Robben Island penguins

Fish feast boosts penguin numbers.

The Rocky Road to Resilience

The resilience of natural systems to disturbances might be crucial to their persistence, but what does resilience actually mean? Does it mean resistance or recovery? And why is it so important?

Selfishness lasts a lifetime, according to mongoose study

Researchers studying wild banded mongooses in Uganda have discovered that these small mammals have either cooperative or selfish personalities which last for their entire lifetime. 

Butterflies heat up the field of solar research

The humble butterfly could hold the key to unlocking new techniques to make solar energy cheaper and more efficient, pioneering new research has shown.

Two top Exeter researchers secure distinguished science award

Two world-leading scientists from the University of Exeter have been honoured with a prestigious national science award.

 

Crop pests outwit climate change predictions en route to new destinations

Researchers highlight the dangers of relying on climate-based projections of future crop pest distributions.

Animal-eye view of the world revealed with new visual software

New camera technology that reveals the world through the eyes of animals has been developed by University of Exeter researchers. 

Severe droughts could lead to widespread losses of butterflies by 2050

Widespread drought-sensitive butterfly population extinctions could occur in the UK as early as 2050 according to a new study.

Colour changing sand fleas flummox predatory birds

Sand fleas have a remarkable ability to change colour in order to match dramatically different backgrounds.

Newly identified tadpole disease found across the globe

Scientists have found that a newly identified and highly infectious tadpole disease is found in a diverse range of frog populations across the world.

Sediment dwelling creatures at risk from nanoparticles in common household products

Researchers from the University of Exeter highlight the risk that engineered nanoparticles released from masonry paint on exterior facades, and consumer products such as zinc oxide cream, could have on aquatic creatures.

Here’s looking at you: research shows jackdaws can recognise individual human faces

Wild jackdaws recognise individual human faces and may be able to tell whether or not predators are looking directly at them.

Masters student marked as one of the best internationally attends prestigious event on food security

University of Exeter Masters student Ángela Delgado Castillo attended this year’s prestigious IBM student recognition event as one of 80 hand-picked students from across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Humans responsible for demise of gigantic ancient mammals

Early humans were the dominant cause of the extinction of a variety of species of giant beasts, new research has revealed.

Scary Science in the Square

Visitors to the University of Exeter’s annual Science in the Square event found out that while nature might sometimes seem scary, science can help make sense of terrifying phenomena as diverse as erupting volcanoes and intestinal parasites.

Life Through a Lens: Images of Research 2015

Post-doctoral researchers, Dr Andrew Watts and Dr Sulayman Mourabit, have been selected as category winners for their respective photographs “Plastic Waste” and “Fish Selfie” in the Image of Research 2015 competition, run by Researchers Development at University of Exeter.

Persist and shout: Male bluebirds alter their songs to be heard over increased acoustic noise levels

Birds ‘shout’ to be heard over the noise produced by man-made activity, new research has shown.

Fishermen discards could increase prevalence of turtle disease in the Turks and Caicos Islands

Fishermen in the Turks and Caicos Islands could be increasing the local prevalence of a disease that is affecting turtle populations worldwide, by selectively harvesting healthy creatures and throwing back infected animals.

Large parks key to city success

Cities should feature compact development alongside large, contiguous green spaces to maximise benefits of urban ecosystems to humans, research led by the University of Exeter has concluded.

Historical data hold secrets of one of UK’s favourite fish

UK fisheries survey logbooks from the 1930s to 1950s have been digitised for the first time, revealing how cod responded to changing temperatures in the last century.

As with MasterChef, fish also like just the right amount of salt

New research sheds light on how fish cope with changes in salinity and the potential advantages that estuaries offer when moving from oceans to freshwater and vice-versa.

First glimpse of rare Peruvian animals revealed in extraordinary camera trap footage

A series of remarkable new camera trap videos has revealed some of the first ever footage of rare Peruvian animals.

University of Exeter contributes to new underwater noise monitoring network

Underwater noise in the marine environment is the focus of a new UK-wide research partnership.

Offshore wind farms could be more risky for gannets than previously thought, study shows

Offshore wind farms which are to be built in waters around the UK could pose a greater threat to protected populations of gannets than previously thought, according to a new study by researchers at the universities of Leeds, Exeter and Glasgow.

Feeling crabby? Genetic tools probe the ways in which shore crabs can fight infection.

Exeter researchers utilise the latest in next-generation sequencing techniques to unravel the genes that are expressed in the European shore crab, Carcinus maenas.

The One Show discovers the huge distances bats migrate

An academic from Biosciences has appeared on the BBCs One Show in a feature about the migration routes of bats.

Plastic in oceans 'threatens food chain'

As England prepares to introduce a charge for plastic bags, BBC science editor David Shukman speaks to Professor Tamara Galloway about the possible threat to the food chain, by the plastics broken down into tiny fragments in our oceans.

Cacti among world’s most threatened species

Thirty-one percent of cactus species are threatened with extinction.

Edible love gifts may influence female behaviour, suggests cricket study

Edible gifts given by male crickets to their female partners during mating contain unique proteins which could affect the females’ behaviour.

Rare bats win lottery boost

The Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project has received a grant via the Heritage Lottery Fund. 

Sea turtles face plastic pollution peril

All seven species of marine turtles can ingest or become entangled in the discarded debris that currently litters the oceans.

Prawns reveal the secrets of innovation

If necessity is the mother invention, who is the mother of necessity?

Moth and butterfly species respond differently to climate change

New research shows that certain species of moths and butterflies differ in how they respond to climate change.

Females more promiscuous in colder climates, says insect study

Females have more sexual partners when they live in colder climates and are happier being monogamous when it is hotter, a study into the behaviour of insects has found.

Common lizards under threat from climate change

A new study has demonstrated that lizards do not cope well with the climate predicted for the year 2100.

Professor Charles Tyler wins prestigious SETAC Award

The Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) has awarded Professor Charles R. Tyler this year’s Founders Award.

High stress during pregnancy decreases offspring survival, according to mongoose study

Elevated stress hormones during the later stages of pregnancy can affect pup survival rate.

World-leading researcher appointed first Director of University of Exeter Living Systems Institute

One of the world’s most pioneering and influential developmental geneticists has been appointed as the inaugural Director of the University of Exeter’s Living Systems Institute.

Intensive farming link to bovine TB

Intensive farming practices have been linked to higher risk of bovine TB, new research has concluded.

Undergraduates win gold with a new method to eradicate Bovine Tuberculosis

A team of undergraduate students has won gold at the 2015 iGEM (the international genetically engineered machine foundation) awards held in Boston.

Extinction can spread from predator to predator, researchers have found

The extinction of one carnivore species can trigger the demise of fellow predators, conservation biologists at the University of Exeter have confirmed.

Marine fungi reveal new branches on tree of life

Researchers from the University of Exeter have discovered several new species of marine fungi inhabiting previously undescribed branches of the tree of life.

Many hands make light work and improve health, researchers have found

Getting help with baby care could keep families healthier and extend their lives, according to a new study into bird behaviour.

Marine airgun noise could cause turtle trauma

Scientists from the University of Exeter are warning of the risks that seismic surveys may pose to sea turtles.

Rice basket study rethinks roots of human culture

A new study from the University of Exeter has found that teaching is not essential for people to learn to make effective tools.

Don’t forget plankton in climate change models, says study

A new study found that phytoplankton - microscopic water-borne plants - can rapidly evolve tolerance to elevated water temperatures.

‘Fish fraud’ across Europe in decline, study shows

Tough new policies to combat fish fraud across Europe appear to be working, according to a new study.

Exeter professor swaps lab bench for backbench

Professor Tamara Galloway from the University of Exeter swapped her lab coat for legislation last week when she visited Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw at the House of Commons for a week in Westminster.

War and peace in the 'princess of Burundi'

A new study published in The American Naturalist by Dr Rick Bruintjes and colleagues finds that conflict with outsiders promotes affiliation between group members in the ‘princess of Burundi’, an East-African fish. Surprisingly, territorial intrusions by neighbours elicited a stronger reaction than those by strangers.

Baby fish will be lost at sea in acidified oceans

The ability of baby fish to find a home, or other safe haven, to grow into adulthood will be severely impacted under predicted ocean acidification, academics have found.

Phytoplankton like it hot: Warming boosts biodiversity and photosynthesis in phytoplankton

Warmer temperatures increase biodiversity and photosynthesis in phytoplankton, researchers at the University of Exeter and Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) have found.

New Exeter research boosts antibiotic hope

Research carried out at the University of Exeter has advanced understanding of how some damaging bacteria behave and may pave the way for new and more targeted antibiotics.

University of Exeter research explains the worldwide variation in plant life-histories

A “window on the tree of life” created by a team which includes a University of Exeter researcher is helping to explain the worldwide variation in plant life-histories.

Crows caught on camera fashioning special hook tools

Scientists have been given an extraordinary glimpse into how wild New Caledonian crows make and use ‘hooked stick tools’ to hunt for insect prey.