Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

"Beetle Team" Works Out The Bugs In Population Studies

Date:
October 22, 2001
Source:
University Of California - Davis
Summary:
It's not an experiment you'd want in your kitchen, but 10,000 flour beetles raised in milk bottles are changing the way scientists count animals.

It's not an experiment you'd want in your kitchen, but 10,000 flour beetles raised in milk bottles are changing the way scientists count animals.

In a new study to be published Friday (Oct. 19) in the journal Science, researchers used six years of beetle population data to improve the modeling tools widely used to explain fluctuations in animal numbers. That should help the people who rely on the tools for understanding or managing a variety of animal populations, including wildlife, commercial fisheries and agricultural pests.

"A primary goal of ecology is understanding population fluctuations. Our study continues that effort by teasing out more of the underlying mechanisms that drive population patterns," said mathematician Shandelle Henson of Andrews University, the study's lead author. "We want our laboratory studies to lead to useful, working concepts that can be applied to real-world problems ranging from food production to the conservation of species diversity."

The new report was written by the "Beetle Team," composed of leaders in the study of nonlinear population dynamics from several U.S. universities, and a collaborator from the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of California, Davis.

This is the newest in a series of reports on population dynamics that the team has developed over the past decade using flour beetles as its animal model. In the University of Rhode Island laboratory of biologist R.F. Costantino, the rice-sized beetles (Tribolium castaneum) live in old-fashioned, half-pint milk bottles in one-quarter cup of, yes, all-purpose white flour and a pinch of dried brewer's yeast.

In the current report, the researchers compare the accuracy of two kinds of population models: the usual kind that allows animal numbers to be fractional (as in, the typical family has 2.5 offspring) and a related model that requires animals to come in whole numbers. Using each of the models, the team predicted theoretically what the beetle populations would do. Then they compared those predictions to the actual population patterns of 150 successive beetle generations.

When they compared the model predictions to the data, they found a surprise, Henson said: Neither model completely explained all the temporal patterns in population numbers. But if the researchers used both models together and also factored in random effects in birth and death events, the predictions matched the data.

The effects weave together in a mathematical space called a lattice. "Such lattice effects could be an important component of natural population fluctuations. Our study shows that a complete understanding of some population systems requires a blend of both kinds of models," Costantino said. "Now we need to get the word to the people who use these models."

The new paper, titled "Lattice Effects Observed in Chaotic Dynamics of Experimental Populations," was written by Henson and fellow mathematicians Jim Cushing of the University of Arizona and Aaron King of the University of California, Davis; statistician Brian Dennis of the University of Idaho; and Costantino and fellow biologist Robert Desharnais of California State University, Los Angeles.

UC Davis' Aaron King studies why some animal populations, such as those of the snowshoe hare and its predators, undergo cycles of extreme highs and lows. He said the new findings should be of interest to ecologists studying habitat loss, as in equatorial rain forests.

"We found that changes in habitat size can change the pattern of population fluctuations in dramatic and non-intuitive ways," King said. "We had known that, on average over time, if habitat gets smaller, a population will get smaller. But now we see that, because of lattice effects, making the habitat smaller, or even larger, can produce unexpected large fluctuations that can bring the population very close to zero -- that is, to extinction."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of California - Davis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of California - Davis. ""Beetle Team" Works Out The Bugs In Population Studies." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 October 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/10/011019075032.htm>.
University Of California - Davis. (2001, October 22). "Beetle Team" Works Out The Bugs In Population Studies. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/10/011019075032.htm
University Of California - Davis. ""Beetle Team" Works Out The Bugs In Population Studies." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/10/011019075032.htm (accessed October 2, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Study Says Losing Sense Of Smell Can Indicate Death

Study Says Losing Sense Of Smell Can Indicate Death

Newsy (Oct. 2, 2014) Researchers found elderly adults with a poor sense of smell are more likely to die within five years. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dolphins and Turtles Under Threat in Pakistan

Dolphins and Turtles Under Threat in Pakistan

AFP (Oct. 2, 2014) The turtles and Dolphins of Pakistan's Indus river - both protected by law - are in a fight for their survival as man's activities threatens their futures. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Harvest Break' Endures in Maine Potato Fields

'Harvest Break' Endures in Maine Potato Fields

AP (Oct. 2, 2014) Educators and farmers are clinging to a tradition aimed at giving farmers much-needed help in getting potatoes out of the fields and into storage before the ground freezes in the nation's northeast corner. (Oct. 2) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Attacking Superbugs

Attacking Superbugs

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) Two weapons hospitals can use to attack superbugs. Scientists in Ireland created a new gel resistant to superbugs, and a robot that can disinfect a room in minutes. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins