News and Media

May 2018: Funds from the Academy of Finland to study the costs and benefits of larval cannibalism in poison frogs — PhD Student and Postdoc Wanted!

The latest funding round of the Academy of Finland came with great news. I was awarded an Academy Research Fellowship for a project that aims to get a better understanding of larval cannibalism in dyeing poison frogs, and how parents’ decision-making can either regulate or exacerbate this, at first glance, counterintuitive behaviour. Soon I will be searching for a 3y postdoc (and hopefully a PhD student, too —> check here!) to join me in this new adventure. Below is a lay summary of the proposed project. If you are interested in either position, drop me an email! bibiana.rojas [at] jyu.fi

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A male of Dendrobates tinctorius transporting a tadpole to a treehole. Photo: B. Rojas

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Tadpole of Dendrobates tinctorius with the remainings of its victim.

Cannibalism is common among animals because eating conspecifics confers nutritional benefits that can make the difference between survival and death. However, cannibals should recognise their kin; if not, they decrease the amount of family genes passed onto the next generation, and are more likely to acquire infectious diseases. Here, we will study the cannibalistic behaviour between tadpoles of an Amazonian frog species which devotedly cares of its offspring, and which develops in unstable environments that can suddenly dry out. This project aims to establish if cannibalism confers benefits that make tadpoles more likely to survive until metamorphosis, and have larger size and better performance when they start terrestrial life; but also to determine if cannibals pay the cost of acquiring infectious diseases more easily. Our study will provide new insights into the spread mechanisms of a disease that is largely responsible for amphibian declines worldwide, and into the potential role of parental decision-making in the regulation of this counterintuitive behaviour.

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April 2018: NEW paper out! “Can multiple-model mimicry explain warning signal polymorphism in the wood tiger moth, Arctia plantaginis”

One more of the chapters from Katja Rönkä’s PhD thesis, asking whether the hindwing colour polymorphism in males of the woof tiger moth could be explained through multiple-model mimicry. Have a look at the paper here.

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March 2018: Have you ever wondered how tiger moths are seen by other moths and by their predators? 

In a new study in collaboration with Miriam Henze, Almut Kelber and Olle Lind, from the University of Lund, we found that the continuous variation (yellow through to red) in the colouration of female wood tiger moths cannot be differentiated by males. As opposed to that, females are able to distinguish between the yellow and white colouration of male hindwings, suggesting that it may play a role in female choice. An avian predator (the blue tit) is capable of detecting all colours of wood tiger moths on varied backgrounds, and red females are particular conspicuous in their eyes. Have a look at the paper here, and at the video we have prepared for all audiences here (or clicking the photo below).

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January 2018: I was lucky enough to be invited to teach in the OTS Tropical Ecology and Conservation field course!

One week in the field , at Las Cruces OTS Station in Costa Rica. Amazing students, beautiful landscapes and lots of work!

I had the chance to work with a group of students from Mexico (Avril and Judith), Peru (Rudi), Argentina (Alejandro) and Costa Rica (José), who carried out a nice little project on the benefits of warning colouration for gregarious caterpillars. They worked very hard and got really interesting results. So proud of them!

 

16.12.2017: Our wonderful Katja Rönkä has successfully defended her PhD Thesis!

9.11.2017: The beautiful Wood Tiger Moths featured in the latest issue of Biosphere Magazine, in a #scicomm piece that Emily Burdfield-Steel and I wrote

Click on the photo below to read the article!

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1.11.2017: Our story on  target-specific chemical defences was featured in Scientific American’s “60 Second Science” podcast!

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21.10.2017: I am very proud to participate in this Colombian #scicomm initiative: Ciencia pa’ sumercé!

A group of Colombian scientists led by Carlos Guarnizo have recently launched a great outreach project to disseminate the scientific knowledge produced by Colombian scientists, both in the country and abroad. This initiative, Ciencia Café Sumercé, has a youtube channel where the scientists talk about their research in short videos aimed at the general public. Have a look at the video they made about our study on the chemical defences of the wood tiger moth (in Spanish)!

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20.10.2017: The Mappes’ Lab is recruiting TWO PhD students to work on Chemical Communication in Wood Tiger Moths. Apply now!

The student will join Prof. Johanna Mappes’ group but the work will be conducted in collaboration with Prof. Astrid Groot (U. Amsterdam); he/she is expected to start no later than April 15th 2018. Application deadline: Dec 8th, 2017, details hereIf you have further questions about the position please email us: aplantaginis.research[at]gmail.com

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06.10.2017: Our visit to Astrid Groot’s Chemical Ecology Lab at the University of Amsterdam was wonderful!

 

28.09.2017: Media coverage on our “Target-specific chemical defences” paper

Have a look at the nice article that Inside Science published about our paper on target-specific chemical defences. Other stories about this study are available in DiscoverMagazine, Phys.org, and Science Daily.

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27.09.2017: Our new paper “How to fight multiple enemies: target specific defences in tan aposematic moth” is out today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B

In this paper we report the first documented case of target-specific defences in an insect! Wood tiger moths produce two types of fluids, one from their cervical glands (aka. neck fluids) and one from their abdomen. When offered oat flakes coated with neck fluids, birds hesitated to eat the flakes for a long time, while ants would happily drink from droplets containing the same type of fluids (as seen in the photo below). As opposed to that, when offered oat flakes coated with the abdominal fluids, birds couldn’t care less while ants were clearly deterred. These findings show that wood tiger moths have a different chemical weapon against each enemy!

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20.09.2017: Our paper on human detection of coloured stimuli in complex visual environments is out in Biology Letters 

A lot of what we know about the way in which us humans perceive colours comes from psychophysical studies which are carried out in controlled conditions in the lab. However, we do not know nearly as much about what happens in the ‘real world’, in which the visual environments in our surroundings are much more complex.  In this study we show how colourful objects can be detected in a visually noisy environment (i.e., a forest) in function of both luminance and saturation contrast, and highlight the importance of combining the information from psychophysical studies with behavioural tasks in the ‘real world’ to get a more thorough understanding about human colour vision.

 

24.07.2017: Symposium on the challenges and achievements of women in Latin American Herpetology

A completely new experience came this summer, as I was invited to speak in this symposium organised by Drs. Jenny Stynoski, Patricia Salerno and Mónica Páez, within the XI Latin American Congress of Herpetology (Quito, Ecuador). It was both moving and empowering to hear about the paths that many talented women from different countries have followed during their journey as herpetologists. Sadly, there were a few problems which seemed to be common for several of us, but the symposium offered a great platform to discuss possible solutions, and highlighted the need to put all these issues out there in order to foster a change.

 

6.07.2017: The field season in Georgia is underway!

We have arrived in Georgia and are very happy to see our host family and our moths. Males are flying, the weather is not too bad… Love is in the air!

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15.04.2017: Visit to the Evolutionary Ecology Lab at Macquarie University

I am visiting A/Prof Darrell Kemp’s lab for two months (March-May) in order to set up a collaborative project on the evolutionary ecology of colour perception in humans. Within this project we are interested in identifying which colour trait(s) best predict the detection of colourful objects in visually complex environments (such as a forest). This is being done in collaboration with Dr. Thomas White too (and the gallah is there just because it’s pretty!).

 

 

08.09.2015: Have a look at this story in the French magazine “Sciences et Avenir” about my latest paper on parental trade-offs in dyeing poison frogs

“It is difficult to grow up when one is a cannibalistic frog”

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24.06.2014: “Tiny frogs host an illusion on their backs”

We recently showed that the dyeing poison frog’s colour patterns are related to the way in which they move. This is what Science News and other outlets, such as Phys.orgDaily Mail (UK)Sydney Morning HeraldNature World News , wrote about our study. And, on top of that, the dyeing poison frog made it to the cover of Biology Letters

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20.01.2014: “Frog fathers don’t mind dropping off their tadpoles in cannibal-infested pools

In my latest paper I showed that fathers of the dyeing poison frog have a ‘strange’ behaviour: given the choice between and empty pool and an occupied one, they are more likely to leave their newly hatched tadpole in the occupied pool, the larger the individual occupying it is. This, which seems to be a counterintuitive choice, may have an explanation. An occupied pool may be a sign that the pool meets the requirements for tadpole development! This is what Science Daily and other outlets, such as  Science Magazine, , Phys.orgSpringer SelectThe Scientist magazine, and Der Standard, wrote about it.

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