Sunday, November 30, 2008

LinkIf you'll recall much earlier in the semester we talked about the recent research showing the gold medal for the fastest mandible strike in nature goes to trap-jaw ants (video).

Now it seems my friend Marc Seid and his colleagues have found a termite has bested the record!

As Marc is quoted :

"Ultimately, we're interested in the evolution of termite soldiers' brains and how they employ different types of defensive weaponry," says Seid. Footage of the soldier termite's jaws as they strike an invader at almost 70 meters per second was captured on a high speed video camera in the laboratory at 40,000 frames per second. "Many insects move much faster than a human eye can see so we knew that we needed high speed cameras to capture their behavior, but we weren't expecting anything this fast. If you don't know about the behavior, you can't hope to understand the brain," Seid adds.

There is always a faster gun out their in the Wild West in the insect world....


Leafcutter flag wavers (Donna Conlon)

Just a follow up on the artist I mentioned in class (Donna Conlon) that played with the leaf-carrying on leafcutter ants. To see an excerpt of the video:


Leafcutter bacterial symbiosis update

As we've been exploring the complex web of mutualisms, predation, and parasitism in the fungus-gardening leafcutting ant system here is a research update straight from the lab of Cameron Currie, providing more detail on the coevolving "arms race" between
the baterical that produce anti-pest compounds which wad off pest-fungal species from taking over the garden.

The article also clarifies a point we didn't discuss uly in classbut wshich is an imporant one in therm so thinking about the bacteria/ant mutualism - is it only a place to grow that the bacteria get in exchange for teir anti-pest activites? Apparently not:

So what do the bacteria get out of producing pesticides for the ants? "For starters, they get food. Many species of fungus-growing ants have evolved special crypts on their bodies where the bacteria live and grow. Scientists believe that the ants feed the bacteria through glands connected to these crypts," said Dr Garret Suen, a post-doctoral fellow in Professor Currie's lab. "Also, the bacteria get a protected environment in which to grow, away from the intense competition they would face if they lived in other environments such as the soil."


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dinosaur that specialized in devouring termites

The smallest dinosaur known to live in North America had a particular fondness for termites. With stubby little arms, long claws and tweezer like mouth parts the little guy was specialized in ripping apart termite mounds to feast the colonists.

News Flash: Ants can make drawings and destroy flags

Artist Yukinori Yanagi utilizes ants and ant farms to make some spectacular work
check it out

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Video Proof of Wasp Face Recognition!

"Video of a wasp choosing between two patches of food. The wasp chooses based on the facial patterns of the guards, preferring the patch guarded by the opponent with fewer black facial spots."

The Tibbetts Lab page, and the videos and pictures page.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Locust Swarms Plague Australia

From the BBC News:

Vast swarms of locusts have been spotted in Condobolin, Wagga, Gundagai and Narrandera - some up to six kilometres long.

New South Wales Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald talks about the government's preparations to deal with them.

Locusts feed mainly on green vegetation. New South Wales is approaching its harvesting season, and in some areas, this is the first successful crop after years of drought. 

See the Video HERE!

Also check out the video on the spread of the "Toxic Moth"!

Spiders in Outer Space

Apparently, yes, on the international space station as we speak!  Part of some on-broad experiments, including seeing how their webs turn out in zero-gravity. 

When you read the article you'll notice a little error that gave me the latitude (altitude?) to feel like this news item belonged in the insects news, even if in taxonomic error....

Apparently these spider experiments were done some 30 years before - perhaps the scientists felt it was time for a replicate? Let's hope.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hexapod dance, dance, dance......

Given our devotion to living hexapods it is wonderful to see these robotic ones prance around. Interesting out of all the costumes only one or two picked an insect motif!
Maybe too obvious..?


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Oh, what a feeling - dancing on the ceiling!

Electron Microscope Image of a Fly Foot
Ever wondered how flies are able to walk on the ceiling without falling off? Scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Stuttgart (Germany) are investigating this James Bond-style ability of insects to hang upside down from a ceiling. In the future such knowledge could lead to the design of tiny machines that mimic this phenomenon of nature.

The team led by Stanislav Gorb used optical sensors to measure the forces applied by each leg of a fly whilst walking freely on a smooth ceiling. They found that the best attachment force occurred when at least one leg from each side of the fly's body was in contact with the surface. These principles were then proven using artificial polymer tape to simulate the adhesive pads found on the feet of insects.

"Walking on a ceiling is very different from normal walking because the gravity tends to pull an inverted insect away instead of pressing it to the surface", explains Dr Gorb. "Our results, in combination with the knowledge on the microstructure of pads, provide important inspiration for mimicking locomotion of wall and ceiling walking machines, which use micropatterned polymer feet for generating adhesion".


Friday, November 7, 2008

Saturday, November 1, 2008