The Iberian Peninsula is undergoing climate change, with temperatures on the rise, and mountain ranges are not exempt from this trend. A team of scientists has analysed regional climate series from the Central Pyrenees for 1910 to 2013 (the most extensive climate records to date for the area), concluding that temperatures have risen at an increasing rate since 1970, particularly in spring and summer.
The legume Acacia dealbata, also known as mimosa, is one of the most aggressive invasive tree species in the world. In the northwest of the peninsula its propagation is an increasingly serious problem since it is penetrating unaltered plant communities, according to a study by the University of Vigo and the University of Coimbra (Portugal). Scientists stress the important role of fires in their dispersal and conclude that natural scrubland could be an effective barrier to slowing down rapid invasion.
Most bird chicks need parental care to survive. In biparental species the chicks have greater chances of success if both parents participate in this task, especially under hostile situations. An international team of scientists has revealed that when temperatures rise, males and females in pairs of plovers shift incubation more frequently.
Surprisingly, there are still plant species waiting to be discovered in the Iberian Peninsula. Some are detected thanks to the latest study methods, and others, such as Linaria becerrae, are described when reinterpreting species which are already known. This new plant had been classified by mistake for 176 years in Málaga.
A necessary part of any animal’s sense of direction is a positioning system, allowing it to have an idea of the relation between where it is and where it wants to go; this is known as odometry. A study from the Autonomous University of Madrid shows that tarantulas use their posterior lateral eyes and anterior lateral eyes (they have a total of four pairs of eyes) to establish the distance they have travelled.
Sixteen million years ago, the reptile Diplocynodon ratelii lived in wooded ecosystems among the lakes and pools of what we know today as Catalonia (Spain). Fossils found at the Els Casots site in the Vallès-Penedès Basin confirm not only that these are the most recent remains of the genus in the Iberian Peninsula, but also that temperatures at the time were higher than today’s.
Habituating to predators or fleeing and hiding are tactics that vary between species. Scientists from two research centres in Italy and Spain have observed that adult male common wall lizards sharing their living spaces with humans become accustomed to them and hide less when humans approach them. Yellow lizards were the most “daring”.
A new strain of ranavirus is currently causing mass mortality in several species of amphibian in the Serra da Estrela, the highest mountain range in continental Portugal. This infectious agent is hypervirulent and also affects fish and reptiles, which complicates the situation, according to a study boasting the collaboration of the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid.
In the most arid areas where there is little to no water, there live nematodes of no more than 1 mm which feed on bacteria and help to mineralise soil and produce nutrients. In an orchard of Jaén a new species has appeared with a feature that makes them unique on the Iberian Peninsula: the males lack the copulatory organ.
Matojo, the nine-month-old Iberian lynx cub found dead in 2015 in Extremadura, did not die from natural causes. His necropsy shows that it was the pseudorabies virus that triggered his sudden demise. Before this case, contagion of this infectious disease was only known in one wild cat in the world, a Florida panther.