Nature Blog Network

Monday, June 30, 2008

Gossamer Tapestry: Circus of the Spineless #34

Check out Circus of the Spineless #34 at the always wonderful lepidoptablog Gossamer Tapestry. Its fun with insects this time around.

Dinner Mate?

Male's fate, originally uploaded by artour_a.

The ultimate urge - to reproduce and pass on our genes. For some however, it is a fatal desire?

Here a female Polyspilota sp. mantis from Madagascar is chewing off the head of a male while mating with him.

So from some of the experts in the crowd...

What evolutionary advantage is there in the death of the male?
Less resource competition (mating and future competition with the young for food)?
Elimination of a potential predator of the young?

(Thanks to artour_a at flickr for the excellent photo!)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Friday, June 27, 2008

Thoughts on Education and Popular Science Books

Brian from the wonderful blog Laelaps has great post titled "Everything I Needed to Know About Science I Didn't Learn in High School." Go there and read it if you haven't already. There are 2 things this brings up in my mind. The first is science education in high schools. There are billions of high schools in the United States, each with its own mission statement on how and what science should be taught.

Brian's point was that science education in high school did not prepare him for college-level science. My own personal experience is similar, but unlike Brian I never once gave a thought to being a scientist as a high school student. It was the furthest thing from my mind. Instead, I focused on plotting my path to rockstardom. Haven't heard of me? Haven't seen my video on MTv? Yeah, I didn't quite make it...

Memories of my class titled "Basic Science" have more to do with messing around and writing poetry, not conducting experiments or learning basic concepts. The other science class I took was Chemistry, which I barely passed to fulfill requirements for 2 years of science courses. Lets just say that by the end of the year our virgin instructor resigned and moved away somewhere. I was neither inspired by nor educated in science when I received my diploma. How I became a scientist is still a mystery to me to this day.

The second interesting point was about the price disparity between "real" science books and pseudo-science books. Many bloggers have pointed to recent examples of poor or misleading science writing. Yet, as a current job seeker with an extensive and broad background in science, I am unable to get a job in science journalism/writing because I do not have a journalism background. Apparently, it is unimportant to know anything in depth about science to write about it for a profession, with the rare exception of established individuals of course.

As Brian is knee-deep into writing his own popular science book, I understand this is probably heavy on his mind. I have also outlined the chapters for a popular science book I hope to start writing once I sort of particulars of my life. His comment is:

"It may not be representative of trends as a whole, but I couldn't help but notice that a new copy of Michael Behe's The Edge of Evolution costs about half as much as new books about evolution like Neil Shubin's Your Inner Fish; it's cheaper to pick up a piece of pseudoscience than a book about one of the most interesting recent finds in evolutionary biology. I doubt that we'll ever reach a point where good popular science books are distributed for free but I think that there does need to be a greater consciousness of how things like price can affect how widely science books are read."

Good science writing is a skill and a service. As such, it should be possible to make money for this endeavor. I do not mean getting rich, but livable wages. If books are free how can a writer, and publisher, makes a livable wage? One roadblock may be in convincing granting agencies that it is in the public's interest to have easily accessible science books that are guaranteed to be inspiring, informative and entertaining. If educators and politicians are truly concerned about the decline of US science and math with respect other western countries, then this may be an investment worth exploring.

Is it possible for foundations, non-profits, government agencies and the like to fork over grant money for book proposals? Agencies can put out calls for proposals to write about aspects of their funded research (or have open calls). Additionally, inclined investigators can include funds in research grants for outreach via books. This can be done by the investigator or to fund a science writer interested in their research, or perhaps to support a graduate student in science journalism/english under the auspices of a co-advisor in that department. In particular, there are many benefits to the last approach. A graduate student in journalism or english could be co-advised by an advisors in science and journalism/english. A year of support from the scientist's grant to carry out all literature research, interviews and gathering of materials necessary to write a book about an area of mutual interest with the scientist. The rest of the student's support can be gained through teaching assistants or fellowships through the journalism/english program. Is there something like this in place somewhere?

To reduce the costs of popular science books, or to make them free, and increase their accessibility by printing them online or as a downloadable pdf file. This makes books open access (OA) and free to anyone a la PLoS/BMC. Perhaps PLoS or BMC could start an OA book publishing service. But the question still remains how an individual or organisation can profit, or at the very least have all expenses paid, from creating and publishing free/at cost popular science books. The author pay to publish scheme would certainly not attract many freelance authors. There is also the question of using other people's content for profit, such as photographs.

The only way I can see this happening is if science writers are able to secure grants to cover salary and expenses while writing a book. Anyone else have any thoughts or ideas?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Inverts 8: Verts 2

We already showed the unworthiness of snakes in the last episode. Just to kick them when they're down, lets watch a snake can pwned by a Tarantula!

Hat tip to not exactly Ed Yong.

Archives of the previous fights:
Mantis vs. Snake
Octopus vs. Fish
Double feature: Man Sized Sea Scorpions vs. Armor Plate Fish and Jellies vs. Salmon
Octopus vs. Moray + half dozen fish
Centipede vs. Bat
Centipede vs. Mouse
Octopus vs. Shark

Sunday Funny - Clam Slut

Heading out to sea next week for SHRMP cruise to Stellwagen Bank (we'll also be conducting an archeological survey for wrecks and artifacts such as the Portland and the Josephine Marie). Don't know how much posting I will be able to get done (preposting or live) but thought I would at least get up a Sunday Funny!

Thanks to a comment by Alex (Who is decidedly NOT dead, and looking into Science Communication Grad Programs) we present:

See the whole comic at PartiallyClips *snicker*.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Bees Outnumber Mammals and Birds

Hat tip to Bug Girl who pointed out a press release on Science Daily describing a bee inventory project by researchers at the American Museum of Natural History.

"Scientists have discovered that there are more bee species than previously thought. In the first global accounting of bee species in over a hundred years, John S. Ascher, a research scientist in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History, compiled online species pages and distribution maps for more than 19,200 described bee species, showcasing the diversity of these essential pollinators. This new species inventory documents 2,000 more described, valid species than estimated by Charles Michener in the first edition of his definitive The Bees of the World published eight years ago."
Click the link above to read more! Just another reason why inverts rule and verts drool. Photo from Cid*'s Flickr Photostream.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Climbing on up

Looks like sea lice are climbing that ladder too... only this isn't the corporate ladder or social ladder but a ladder to higher up the food web. Actually a new study looked at an interesting question, how is a poor ectoparasite, like parasitic copepods (including the sea lice that often plague salmon farms), supposed to survive if its host gets eaten. It looks like these pesky crustaceans will often jump ship when their hosts are eaten and then infect the predator that ate their former host. At least they're not using some form of brain control to force their initial host to get eaten like so many endoparasites do. The study was published online by the Royal Society's Biology Letters and a summary is available at AAAS.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hover fly

Hoverfly 2
Hoverfly 2 a male hoverfly I believe is Toxomerus marginatus(?)
Originally uploaded by Eric Heupel

We've had a couple posts about other pollinators and some of the problems facing them. Here then is a brief (real brief) look at another cosmopolitan invert pollinator—the hover fly.

Before we go any further yes, it does look a lot like a bee or wasp. The hover flies are masters of Batesian mimicry (think sheep in wolves clothing). There are many species of hover fly which mimic bees, hornets, and wasps. At a casual glance of the painted blanket flowers in our garden it often looks like there are three species of bees when most often it is a hover fly joining a European honey bee and a bumble bee. The hover fly is even reported to mimic the stinging action of a bee pressing the tip of it's abdomen towards a restraining hand.

Hover flies are true flies (Diptera) of the family Syrphidae with 6000+ species. Like all true flies, they have one pair of wings, whereas the bees and wasps (and all order Hymenoptera) have two pairs of wings even though they are usually seen as one pair because the hindwing is linked to the forewing by a velcro like structure. In place of the second wings the hover flies have haltares which act a bit like gyroscopes to help the flies balance. The flies have very large eyes, and short antennae unlike bees and wasps. Some hoverflies wave their front legs in front of the heads to mimic the longer antennae. The hover flies are prolific breeders with some species going from egg to adult in as few as two weeks during the summer.

All those generation can be a boon to gardeners and agriculture. The larvae (maggots) of many species are voratious predators of aphids, thrips, leafhoppers and other soft bodied insects. Other hoverfly species larvae however can be pests including bulb and stem eating maggots. More species can be found in stagnant water or eating decaing plant material. There is in fact huge diversity of feeding among the larvae. Almost all adults however feed on pollen and nectar. They are importnat polinators of many flowering plants including such important commercial crops as carrots, onions and many species of fruit tree.

Hoverfly 1
Hoverfly 1 a male hoverfly I believe is Toxomerus marginatus(?)
Originally uploaded by Eric Heupel







Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Linnean Insect Collection Online

In time for England's National Insect Week, the Linnean Society has digitized and put online the butterfly and moth collection of Carl Linnaeus, including many type specimens. The searchable collection has beautifully digitized images of the specimens including multiple views and accompanied by the original notes.

In addition to the multiple views, each image can be zoomed onscreen to an impressive detail. The digitizing crew at the Natural History Museum did a beautiful job on this. As an example above is the overview window of a Papilio sp. collected in Sierra Leone. Below is the 100% zoom image of the eyespot from the right hindwing.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

How Did Jellies Get Human Genes? The Redux

Last year I posted on the anemone genome paper and dissuaded the creationist claim of "Where did sea anemones get human genes". Yes, I know dear reader that it actually argues for common descent. Even if phrased incorrectly.

Ed Yong, of the fabulous Not Exactly Rocket Science blog, explains new research on shared opsins, proteins involved in eye sight, between vertebrates and box jellies.

"Jellyfish may seem like simple blobs of goo, but some are surprisingly sophisticated. The box jellyfish (Tripedelia cystophora), for example, is a fast and active hunter and stalks its prey with the aid of 24 fully functioning eyes. These are grouped into four clusters called rhopalia, which lie on each side of its cube-like body. Together, they give the box jellyfish a complete 360 degree view of its world and make it highly maneuverable.

Each eye cluster, four eyes are merely pits containing light-sensitive pigments, but two are remarkably advanced and carry their own lenses, retinas and corneas. The lenses are good enough to produce images that are free of distortion and even though the views are blurrier than those we see, these complex 'camera-type' eyes are very similar to those of more advanced animals like ourselves and other vertebrates.

But these similarities extend to a more fundamental level. Even though jellyfish are the most ancient group of animals to have a well developed visual system, it turns out that their eyes are built with many of the same genetic building blocks that ours are."
Go read his post and decide if its parallel evolution or conserved.

Beware the Geoduck

Geoducks are large, often very old, muscular clams. Occasionally they have been known to deface belligerent clam diggers.

Monday, June 16, 2008

B-Grade Squid Horror

Keeping with the B-grade horror flicks starring inverts...

On a gently rocking vessel in the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez, a young oceanographer earnestly watches her computer screen while colleagues lower a cable into the water. Instruments aboard the ship, the Pacific Storm, ping sound waves toward the cable. The oceanographer’s eyes flicker across the screen to make sure the signal is clear. Tethered to the cable is a 5-pound Humboldt squid, and the sound waves, set at 38 kilohertz, bounce off the squid. An image shows up on the screen.

The oceanographer raises her fist in triumph. It marks the first time scientists had clearly picked up a strong sonar signal for squid, which lack the bones and swim bladders that give away other marine creatures.

Suddenly a second image appears, darting up from below. The acoustic signal tracks it from the depths toward the cable — and the tethered squid. It is another squid, larger than the first, and it attacks the tethered animal. The oceanographer screams.

Fade to black.

Read the whole story behind the scenes of Professor Benoit-Bird's recent paper (and current work) on sonar tracking of squid in a joint LiveScience and NSF "behind the scenes of science" article.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Supertheory of Supereverything

Thanks to Alex at Myrmecos for turning me on to these hilarious and clever gypsy punks. I particularly like to "philisophical" meandering of this one too.

Optically Buggin'

ResearchBlogging.orgIt's an overcast ugly day here, so this morning while waiting for the sea shanty festival to start, I thought I should get something more serious posted to the site. This one made the rounds of the physical and material science news sites a few weeks ago when the original press release went out. After the paper was actually published I was able to find some time to read it —

"Bugs" and computing are intimately linked throughout computing history (and electronic engineering in general). Moths were the nemesis of early vacuum tube computer operators as they would fry themselves on the circuits and tubes, occasionally causing the tube to fail as well (er...that's the moths that would fry themselves, not the operators). Even before then "bugs" and "debugging" were common vernacular for engineers as they are now for all coders. While it's doubtful that "bugs" or "debug" will exit the jargon, recent discoveries in photonic computing materials are leading to a better reputation for bugs in the computer engineering world.

Researchers at Brigham Young University, IBM'S Almaden Research Center, and the University of Utah have discovered that the weevil Lamprocyphus augustus has scales whose internal structure of chitin is arranged in the same configuration as carbon atoms in diamonds — a lattice configuration that has been described as the ideal configuration for the photonic crystals needed to power future optical computers. Natural diamonds are too dense to use to manipulate visible light. Even though there have been advances in synthetic diamond crystals, none of them have the desired visible light spectrum properties.

Photonic crystal structure of L. augustus
Photonic crystal structure of L. augustus
courtesy of Michael Bartl

The weevil's scales are 200µm by 100µm and composed of hundreds of chitin crystals, each with a slightly different orientation. All of them reflect light at 500 to 550nm wavelengths (green), but because of the orientation variation, each crystal reflects a slightly different wavelength back to the viewer, giving the beetle an overall iridescent green color. Because of the structure, the different chitin crystal orientations and their extremely small size, the iridescent effect appears from all angles the beetle is viewed. This is unusual for an iridescent material. Like all iridescent materials the color is not from a pigment, but from the base structure of the material; however, with most iridescent materials, the color and effect changes depending on incident light and viewing angles.

So what?

The lure of using this beetle's scales in photonics is in the structure and iridescent effect of the chitin crystals. The structure matches the "ideal photonics crystal" and the iridescent effect demonstrated is the effect photonics engineers are after — creating a tunable bandgap that will selectively block transmission of certain wavelengths of light through a circuit. The authors hope that their dissection, and reconstruction of the crystals 3D structure will aid in the creation of a synthetic crystal with similar properties, which would help advance optical computing and solar power applications.

Of interest to me is how this research actually came about. It began when one of the authors, Lauren Richey, was pursuing a high school science fair project on biological iridescence. She had a small sample of the weevil and recognized its potential as an iridescent insect, but needed a complete sample for her project. BYU biology professor and co-author John Gardner and his lab were assisting her, while University of Utah grad student and co-author Jeremy Galusha was using the BYU electron microscope and heard about the project. Galusha brought the project to the attention of his advisor and co-author Michael Bartl, a physical and materials chemist with strong interest in photonic crystals.

After getting a complete specimen and conducting painstaking SEM ablation techniques, they were able to unwrap the structure of the chitin crystals of the weevil's scale. Using the chitin as a mold, they may be onto the crystal structure of future photonics. Time will tell...but if it works out, we'll have the weevil L. augustus and a high school science fair project to thank.

For more details on the photonics and materials science aspects see the University of Utah press release, or Physical Review E, where the paper was published online 10 days after the press release, and most reviews, went out.

Galusha, J.W., Richey, L.R., Gardner, J.S., Cha, J.N., Bartl, M.H. (2008). Discovery of a diamond-based photonic crystal structure in beetle scales. Physical Review E, 77(5) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevE.77.050904

Friday, June 13, 2008

Inverts 7 - Verts 2

For your Friday Night Fight:

The series is now Inverts 7 - Verts 2

Archives of the previous fights:
Octopus vs. Fish
Double feature: man sized scorpions vs. armor plate fish and Jelly vs. Salmon
Octopus vs. Moray + half dozen fish
Centipede vs. Bat
Centipede vs. Mouse
Octopus vs. Shark

Spinning a home soon

These caterpillars will soon spin a cocoon home for their transformation into adult domesticated silk moths. Bombyx mori have been domesticated since at least the past 4500 years. The commercial and cultural importance of these moths is immense. Sericulture is practiced around the word, and in many parts of Asia the moths are kept in attic like ceiling areas to collect the silk in village co-ops. The sale of the silk from the cocoons supplements farm or similar income. These little moths (well the caterpillar really) alo have some special powers we'll get to soon.

In the mean time, check out the development of a closely related Saturniid silk moth from egg to adult moth.








B. mori

(nod of the antenna to SOFennell for the silk worm image and Miriam at The Oyster's Garter for pointing out the Saturniid series!)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Flamboyant Sex and Hot Moths!

Since the Daisy Hill Cuttle Farm video of flamboyant cuttlefish mating is currently unavailable (Though Dorid saved the day with some good voyeuristic vids from her personal collection!) I thought I should endeavor to find some good cuttle porn. This cephalopod sex clip is from a longer piece available at YouTube. The rest of the piece is good, but it's mostly vertebrates teasing and eating each other. As a bonus the video has egg masses and cuttles hatching.

Zooilogix has some amazing moth pictures (and one butterfly) from Igor Siwanowicz. Simply Stunning.

Baby Squid Photo

So as I have probably given away, cephalopods are an interest of mine, but so is larval development, and the role of sex and larval dispersal in communities and ecosystems. So I am an extra sucker for larval forms, especially of cephalopods... here is one posted originally to Tonmo. The poster is looking for a species ID of this squid...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Invert Horror!

So I just finished writing the cicada photo posting, with the closing comment about the old B horror movies, when I check the RSS feeds and see a new posting at Snails Eye View. A news item from Stuttgart Germany about snails taking out Beemers and and Porches on the Autobahn... "like something from a horror film."

I thought first of an award winning animated film Les Escargots (Loving animation, why not?) In which giant snails drive people out of a French village.

Then I remembered an old late night 1950's B-horror with a snail, but I couldn't remember the name. Two minute on Amazon and IMDB grabbed a pair of the old movies I had seen so many years ago (someone actually took the trouble to put them on DVD too!) The one I remembered was The Monster That Challenged The World. And what do you know... the original trailer and one of the scenes are available on YouTube too.

The other one I vaguely remembered was Attack of the Giant Leeches, another classic invert B-Horror flick. With not only the trailer but the whole movie available online. I love that these leeches have suckers like a cephalopod... Hirundia + Cephalopoda = badass monster?

Kevin quickly volunteered the 1988 movie "Slugs" by Juan Piquer Simón, the same man who, that is, brought us to Pod People. Kevin's link was all the best scenes of the movie in 3½ minutes - the best way to watch carnivorous molluscs devour western society.

Of course all these movies may be corny (the 50's stuff) or even over the top gory (Simón's) by our standards today, but does it (or did it) help cause irrational invert fear in some people?

I would bet most of us know people who "Eeeewww" when we tell them we like/study/eat inverts... or worse some that get totally irrational about even lady bugs.

So what's your take? Or what's your favorite old late-late-night invert horror movie?
Are there any invert hero movies?


I do a bit of photography and always enjoy the work of truly gifted photographers such as Alex Wild (author of Myrmecos Blog). Always trying to improve my own macro skills I sometimes peruse the various nature photography forums, where I ran across a great photo series of the emergence of an adult cicada. (This particular emergence always reminds me a bit of the old b horror flicks, sorta an invasion of the body snatchers type of thing.)

For your next cicada filled spring try this special pie recipe

Cicada pie (from Cincinnati Enquirer 1902)

Take 50 newly emerged white female cicadas and remove the wings, legs and head. Chop up the cicadas into pieces and place in a bowl with stale bread that has been soaked in milk. Add sugar, rhubarb flavor and cream to soften the ingredients. Put the mixture into a pie crust and cover with strips of pie crust placed in a cross pattern similar to that of an apple pie. Bake in an oven at 400 degrees till crust is done.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Dr. E. Alison Kay

I just received in my inbox this sad news of the passing of Alison Kay. She was professor emeritus at the University of Hawaii and made many numerous contributions to the Malacology, including a huge work on Cowry radulae. I never knew her personally but had corresponded with her very briefly when applying to graduate schools. She was well into retirement at that time and I didn't quite understand what "emeritus" meant! She was very kind and encouraging though and offered suggestions for advisors, letting me know I could email her anytime to ask questions about molluscs. This friend of the invertebrates will be greatly missed but her extensive work will live on for generations.

Dr. Fabio Moretzsohn writes on the Mollusca listserve:

"I am very sorry to report about Dr. E. Alison Kay's passing. I just received news from friends in Hawaii (Wes Thorsson, Regie Kawamoto) that Dr. Kay died this morning at a Hospice facility on Oahu, Hawaii. Her health had been declining in the past few years.

Dr. Kay was well known from her book, Hawaiian Marine Shells (1979), which still remains the bible on marine mollusks for Hawaii and many Pacific islands. She made great contributions to the study of cowries, starting with her Ph.D. dissertation in 1957. One of her last papers on cowries was her Atlas of Cowrie Radulae (with Hugh Bradner, 1996), which illustrated virtually all (but a handful of) species in the family both under the light and scanning electron microscope. Besides her interests in molluscan biology, conservation, and taxonomy of both living and fossil mollusks, Dr. Kay was interested in biographical research, especially on malacologists (e.g. Willian Harper Pease, John Gullick), as well as the early history of Hawaii. She taught a very popular class on the Natural History of the Hawaiian Islands, and edited two books on the subject. She was also the editor of Pacific Science for some 20 years.

She was a Professor of Zoology the University of Hawaii for several decades, and retired in 2000. She continued active for a few more years, but then her health declined. She had had many undergraduate and graduate students; I was her last student, and she was delighted to mentor me in the study of cowries, her "first love". I was lucky enough to have both her and Dr. C.M. "Pat" Burgess (author of The Living Cowries (1970) and Cowries of the World (1985)) as my mentors on
cowries. They met when she was 13 years old and broke a bone (leg?); he was the doctor who treated her. During the many sessions of her treatment, they became friends and she got him interested in shells, and especially cowries. Later, they both went on to study and publish on cowries.

She did pioneering work on micromollusks as indicator species for biomonitoring, which still continues at the University of Hawaii. This biomonitoring project has funded many graduate students, including myself, through its decades of operation. She included and described many micromollusks (I think over 70 new spp., besides many others) in her Hawaiian Marine Shells book. It encouraged many people to look for and study these tiny shells. Someone at the Hawaiian Malacological Society once joked about her book having contributed to many collectors' poor vision (because of studying microshells).

For over 20 years Dr. Kay spent her summers traveling to Europe to visit several museums, and in particular, the British Museum, to conduct research on mollusks."

Honey Copter T-Shirt Only $4.99!!

OMG! The Honey Copter Tee is only 5 bucks at The Cotton Factory, my favorite place for ridiculous nerdy t-shirts.

Inverts 6: Verts 2

Yep, still racking them up. Octopus, the stealth bombers of the Invertebrata, takes down a weasley little goldfish. Its just too easy...

The breakdown:
Inverts 5: Verts 2
Inverts 3: Verts 1
Inverts 3: Verts 0
Inverts 2: Verts 0
Inverts 1: Verts 0

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sunday Funny - Revenge!

It's not lolocean but the Swedish chef always used to crack me up...

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Saturday Spineless Spotlight #1

flambouyant cuttle 3510, originally uploaded by bversteegh.

The flamboyant cuttlefish (Metasepia pfefferi) is one of the other known poisonous cephalopods1. A tiny cuttlefish, adults are only known to reach ~8cm. They inhabit relatively "shallow" waters (<80m) in a very limited geographic range around Indonesia and northernmost Australia. They have been found primarily on mud flats and coral rubble areas. The name flamboyant comes from the purple, pink white, yellow and black colors it displays in ripples when disturbed. The colors are believed to a warning to potential predators of the flamboyants toxicity. They hunt during the day, walking across the ocean floor on their arms and using two flaps of their mantle. Known prey include small crustaceans (shrimp especially) and fish. They mate head to head, after which the female deposits the fertilized eggs in rock and coral caves or in coconut shells, but does not brood them. Like many cephalopods, after mating the adults soon die. The type specimen was collected in 1874 and is now part of The Natural History Museum of London collection.

Daisy Hill Cuttle Farm has some excellent video of a specimen they received from an aquarium display. These cuttles have not been successfully raised in captivity and are NOT recommended for home aquaria.

Check out the rest of the Daisy Hill Cuttlefish video's (warning they also have hard core cuttle porn!)

(edit: If Daisy Hill's Cuttle Porn is down... Dorid has offered us her own home video cuttle sex shots. Thanks for sharing Dorid!)







Metasepia pfefferi

1 - Has this been published yet??

Friday, June 6, 2008

Should I Change Name to The Other 99%?

Emmett Duffy sings the praises of Dung Beetles in his latest post. He quotes Newsweek:

“If Earth’s species are a living library, then polar bears and other cuddly mammals are the best-selling beach reads. Everything else is the volumes of history and literature and other scholarship, written in the alphabet of DNA: 99 percent of all animals are invertebrates. To understand the history and the majesty of life requires reading, and thus preserving, those volumes.”
Yeah for even more insignificance of those-with-spines!

New Songs in the Sidebar!

There are 2 new songs uploaded in the Spineless Songs sidebar. Although neither are about the spineless hopefully you'll enjoy them nonetheless.

The top song is Drinking and Sailing. Information and lyrics for this new Kevvy Z original is at Deep Sea News since this song is part of my Deep Sea Ditties collection over there. The 2nd song is a brilliant, though sad, story about going to California to make a fortune so you can come back home and marry the woman you want. This was written by Dave Alvin, probably only the best songwriter evah!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Bee Decline Linked to Introduced Virus

Editors note: Since Eric started this whole bee thing. I am posting this press release I wrote as part of a writing exercise for a job application for the NAS.

Extensive bee decline has the agricultural community in a panic. Bees are responsible for pollinating many crops and provide a service to the industry estimated at $15 billion a year. Diane Cox-Foster, professor in the Entomology Department, Penn State, and colleagues report in the journal Science a correlation between this decline, called colony collapse disorder (CCD), and Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV).

CCD is diagnosed by an inexplicable disappearance of adults, leaving honey, pollen and grubs behind. Surveys detailed a loss of 50-90% of commercial bee colonies. The first reported declines were in 2004, corresponding to when the U.S. allowed imported bees from Australia. This study is the first report of IADV in the United States.

The study’s authors report that IAPV was only found in CCD hives and from Australian samples, but caution this may be part of a multifaceted attack including parasites, poor nutrition, pesticides and environmental stressors. Future research will study the role of IAPV in CCD in relation to these stressors.

The National Research Council report Status of Pollinators in North America concluded that populations of North American pollinators are in rapid decline. More than three-quarters of commercially important flowering plants need pollinators for fertilization. The honeybee is responsible for pollinating over 90 crops. Causes for the decline are difficult to determine due to inadequate data. The report recommended establishing a network with Canada and Mexico to form long-term monitoring projects, along with a comprehensive survey to gather baseline data for future population assessments.

NRC Report Status of Pollinators in North America

Other Resources:

• NAS press release: Some Pollinator Populations Declining; Improved Monitoring and More Biological Knowledge Needed to Better Assess Their Status
• Cox-Foster et al. (2007) A Metagenomic Survey of Microbes in Honey Bee Colony Collapse Disorder. Science 318 (5848): 283-287. Doi: 10.1126/science.1146498
AAAS teleconference with study’s coauthors (teleconference begins around three minute mark)

European Honeybee foraging

Honey Bee Hard At It

An Apis mellifera worker collecting some nectar. These poor bee's have had a bit of a time of it lately with Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), but at least they can take solace in the knowledge that they can talk about it with their cousins the Asian honeybee. Or maybe not...depends on how well they remember... (and with which antenna!)

Although and introduced species, these bees are chief pollinators of over 100 commercially important crops (most of which are also introduced) and at least 1/3 of the American diet, giving these bees a value in the billions of dollars1 just from an agricultural point of view.








Apis mellifera

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

International Communications - Dance It

ResearchBlogging.orgBee dancing has long been an interesting, if a bit controversial, subject for science with research articles focused on deciphering the meaning of dances, led by the pioneering work of Nobel Laureate Karl von Frisch. The essence of the dance is that successful foragers return to the hive and dance a figure 8. In the crossing section of the figure 8, the bee waggles its abdomen. The duration of the waggle section indicates the distance to the food source. The angle of the cross part (the tilt of the 8 if you will) indicates direction of the food source.

Now new Open Access research published in PLoS One looks at “international” communication capabilities between two species of honeybee: the eastern or asian honeybee, Apis cerana and the Western or European honeybee, Apis melifera. There are several species of honey bees that have been studied and each was observed as having a different dance style. To eliminate as many uncontrolled variables (primarily season, time, spatial scales, wind and geography of separate experiments) as possible, and be able to directly compare two species, a team of scientists from Australia, China and Germany creative a single hybrid hive with an A. cerana queen and a mixed worker population. They tried colonies with an A. melifera queen but in those colonies the A. cerana workers were killed and removed from the hive within 3 days. Even in the A. Cerana queened hybrid hives the team sometimes had to use active measures to keep the hive harmonious including spraying agitated bees with sugar syrup and honey water and removing troublemakers. Without active controls the hybrid hives lasted 20 days before the introduced workers were all killed or driven out, with active control the hives lasted in excess of 50 days. The harmonious hybrid hive also showed food transfer (trophollaxis) between species and mixed species workers tending the queen when she was laying eggs.

The researchers found that each species did have a distinct “dialect” primarily expressed in the duration of waggle to distance relationship. A. cerana bees waggled their butts significantly longer than A. melifera for all distances of food from the hive in both single species and hybrid hives. The team continued to evaluate understanding between the two species and found that the workers from either species were able to understand the dance of foragers regardless of the “dialect” of the dance and that the A. cerana were more likely to follow any successful forager than A. melifera. Both the direction and distance to the food source were accurately communicated between species.

Whats cool is that, as the researchers point out, this might be a social learning situation. Interspecific communication and potentially interspecific learning. It may be that if a longer term experiment can be successfully conducted, the two species of bees waggle durations may converge over a longer period.

Su, S., Cai, F., Si, A., Zhang, S., Tautz, J., Chen, S., Giurfa, M. (2008). East Learns from West: Asiatic Honeybees Can Understand Dance Language of European Honeybees. PLoS ONE, 3(6), e2365. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002365

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

New Carnivorous Genus described...

Via the Bleiman Brothers,
read their report at Zooilogix.

Circus of the Spineless #33!

Laurent at Seeds Aside just posted the latest edition of the Circus of the Spineless hot off the press!! Packed full with invertebrate fun, so gather round the family and tell the tales of dragonflies, snails, sea cucumbers and much much more.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Carnival of the Blue Lucky#13

The first Carnival of the Blue of its 2nd year. Carnie creator Mark Powell posts edition #13 and brings it all full circle with the most massive, packed ocean blogging. Its great to see so many diverse bloggers contributing to this carnival. Well, what are waiting for, go learn something!

Crustacean Crash

Critical Critter
Discovery News is carrying a news piece about the decline of a key great lakes species: Diporeia. This tiny crustacean, which feed primarily on planktonic algae, is eaten by many species of fish, importantly alewives (a type of herring) which are eaten by larger fish. The population crash coincides in general with the introduction of the Zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) to the great lakes. Another clue that the zebra mussels are responsible (at least in part) is that the Diporeia are disappearing from all the lakes except Lake Superior which has a much lower population of zebra mussels - probably due to the lake's low calcium levels which the mussel needs to build its shell. The zebra mussels
... settle above the small crustacean's sediment homes and filter out algal plankton, which Diporeia must feed upon. They then leave behind copious amounts of waste -- literally defecating on the hapless crustaceans -- and transmit disease.

Vanishing Crustacean

Declining Diporeia
population density in
Lake Michigan

A shopping cart
covered by zebra mussel

Get the complete story at Discovery News...

Brokeback Bible: LMAO en espanol

My spanish-blogging spineless amigo, Diario de un Copépodo, has a funny post called Brokeback Bible. Mi gusta mucho the pictorial. If you don't speak spanish, you should be able to get the idea. The bible story in question is about David and Saul and exposes the blatant hypocrisy of bible believers and homophobia.

"Era rubio, de bellos ojos y hermosa presencia (He was blond, of beautiful eyes and beautiful presence)"-(Samuel 16:12)
Or if you prefer to see how the various versions of whatever bible covers up translates this go here.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Cephalophilia #1 - Blue Ringed Octopus - H. lunulata

I thought a touch of cephalopod love on a beautiful weekend day. A nice example of one of the three genus of known toxic cephalopods: Hapalochlaena lunulata (Greater Blue Ring Octopus) from the Philippines. Highly toxic, they are rarely above 70g in size, but have enough toxins in them to deliver 20+ doses of toxin at lethal levels to an adult human. The chief component of their toxin is the same compound at the heart of cone snail toxins and the toxin of pufferfish and causes paralysis including respiratory and cardiac shutdown. Fortunately this guy hunts small crustaceans mostly, and bites on humans are self defense.







Hapalochlaena lunulata