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Getting richer as you go higher: New Insights on Soil Variability in a Dry Tropical Forest

“Each soil has its own history”, wrote Charles Kellogg in his book The Soils that Support Us (1956). Indeed, there are several processes happening in the background that are responsible for the dynamic nature of the soils that support our forests and agriculture. These processes can give rise to variations in the soils that are evident in as little as a kilometre in the same geographic area, as examined by a team of scientists from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The variation in the soil, also known as soil heterogeneity, plays an important role in forest ecology. The spatial differences in the soil may ensure that the same substrate can be differentially utilized by multiple species, thus enabling co-existence of diverse plants and maintenance of the community structure.

A wasp armed with a toothed, saw-like drill

Wasps lay eggs using an egg laying organ called the ovipositor. Some wasps lay eggs inside figs and need to drill through the fig fruit to do so. Researchers from IISc have unearthed the mechanism that these wasps use — they have teeth like projections on the ovipositor, like a saw. And that’s not all, these teeth are coated with zinc. Insights gained from this study may help us to build tools that aid in robot assisted surgery, and novel mechanisms to bore through hard surfaces.