To be such a tiny little planet in such an enormous universe, we have more strange beings that one would expect (of couse, I'm biased when it comes to determine what's "strange" and whats not but I'm sure you're all humans as well and therefore agree with me most of the time). In the liquid soup normally known as "the ocean", you can find all kinds of amazing creatures; many that outraces your imagination. The up to 3.3 m long Goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni) looks like something a juvenile H.P. Lovecraft could come up with. Being mainly pink, it differs from the other sharks. Another striking character is the long snout (for sensing its way around in the dark) and its intimidating jaws, so it might be settling to know that it lives in deep water far away from your toes. An anatomic remarc is the size of this shark's liver, which can weigh as much as 25% of its body mass. The reason for this is not known. Perhaps it likes to take a pint now and then.
I've always been facinated by names. When I had a "native american"-period as a juvenile, I used to imagine what name I might have. Coming up with such wonderful names as "raging thunder", I am quite happy that my re-babtism was inoficially performed in my girlroom and that I still go under a "normal" swedish name. Still, I'm intruged by names; by their background and purpose. Therefore I reacted when I just encountered the phorid fly's latin name - Apocephalus paraponerae - that basically states that this organism decapitates ants. When an ant of the species Paraponera clavata gets injured or is involved in a fight, female phorid flies are attracted and starts to lay eggs in the ant's head so that, eventually, the head of the ant falls of. Imagine the horror movies that you could make out of this concept!
Image taken from http://fireant.ifas.ufl.edu
Source: Pheromones and animal behaviour : communication by smell and taste (book) by Wyatt Tristam
Life ain't easy. There's always a threat lurking around the corner, whether you're a human or a bacteria. Therefore, there are as many defence mechanisms as there are species (if not more!). The poor Japanese honeybees (Apis cerana japonica) are subject of the giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia japonica), who - upon finding and entering a honeybee nest - will destroy it and take the honeybee broods to feed their own larvae. Brutal! In Homo sapien conflicts, destruction of villages and cities are known throughout history but I've never heard of soldiers taking babys to feed their own.
Of course, since evolution is as magnificent as it is, the honeybees have evolved a defence mechanism and it is just as brutaly remarkable as the hornets attack. When the hornet arrives to a nest and marks it (with a pheromone), guard bees starts to send out signals (also pheromones) that makes all bees near the entrance to retreat into the nest. Then, more than 1000 worker bees gather just outside the entrance, and if a hornet tries to enter, the workers form a huge ball that surrounds the intruder. The hornet becomes marked with venom and secretion so that all workers knows that they should focus their attack energy on it. The most brutal thing is how the hornet is finally destroyed: the swarm around it generates a lot of heat (it can reach up to 47 degrees C) so it is basically roasted to death. Now, how's that for a defence!
Image revised from http://sequentialscribbles.blogspot.com/2008/01/and-you-thought-wasps-were-bastards.html
Source: Pheromones and animal behaviour : communication by smell and taste (book) by Wyatt Tristam
Yep, I suck at keeping this blog somewhat alive and vivid. This time my excuses are a weekend in Budapest followed by a kick-off 2-day visit (for my research school) in the north of Scania. To further stir up my mental status, my 14 year old dog had to be put to sleep (due to old age) and my cat feels neglected and therefore have started to urinate and scratch at my boyfriends expensive couch.
WELL, nevermind that. I will try to be stoic.At least I was able to shoot some cool animals in Budapest. So here's one I'm quite satisfied with. Since I just came home from a crayfish party at my department I won't write anything of value. Instead I encourage you to surf on to this site or this site and read something about the so called "vampire moth". That's a name you won't forget!
Image revised from http://user.it.uu.se/~svens/larverna/normal.html
I've just started a new era in my life; an era that in its simplest form probably will be called "all work no play", or just "my PhD". During the previosly five years of my life I've stumbled forward in my education and now I've landed in a position that I couldn't have imagined even a year before BUT it is a position that fits me perfectly. I will work with "white biology", I will work with bioinformatics, I will work with genetics, I will work with evolution, I will work with creatures on six legs and I will work in the most beautiful surroundings in the natural science part of Lund University.
Basically, I will try to penetrate the evolution of novel pheromone systems in moths. Hopefully, I will be able to get a hold on peculiar curiosities and be able to take some cool photos to post on this blog. But until then I will try to bombard this little dead end of the web with other things that I find interesting.
Image revised from http://gallery.photo.net/photo/4318247-md.jpg
Check out this link for more pictures, in the same theme as the first, that will make your skin itch!
Image revised from http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/science/thematerialworld_20060511.shtml
Being a living creature, your main issue - whether you like it or not - is to mature and survive long enough to produce offsprings. Internet-using animals (usually known as humans) are lucky to have evolved to a point where its beneficial to have living and caring parents, monogamous partners that like to see you happy and healthy, and to enjoy being part of a continous social Homo sapiens-pack. Many species aren't that lucky.
For example, the limbless amphibian Boulengerula taitanus starts its life by eating its mother. Actually, the teeth of this little beeing have evolved perfectly for this task. The mother survives this horrifying motherhood state (when one layer is eaten, there's another one underneith), and will live to see her gene pool grow up and perhaps enjoy one more round of being breakfast, lunch and dinner all at once.
Then, we have sexual cannibalism. The females of Latrodectus hasselti (a subspecies of the Black widows) likes to end the copulation by devouring the male. If he manages to leave the scene without being eaten, he's still doomed because of all the injuries that comes with the sexual procedure. Beats snuff-movies both in gore and intelligence.
Image revised from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Red_back_spider_closeup.jpg
The mating behaviour of the Mantis religiosa (the praying mantid) starts off with a very cautious male closing in on a female. The odds are kind of against him; he's at a 31% risk of having to leave this world after having accomplished a mating. Paradoxially he's more attracted to larger females that - if they're hungry - further lower his chance of getting out alive.
Image revised from http://damecarcass.blogspot.com/2008/03/hunger-in-living-room.html
Image revised from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070725152040.htm
I'm a horror litterature nerd. During my pre-teen summer holidays - when all my friends were out in the sun - I was at the library searching for anything spooky, written down by masters such as E. A. Poe, M. R. James, W. H. Hodgson ect. The only thing that kept me from discovering the macabre world of horror movies were infact my dear mother. She doesn't think highly of "evil flattering" so whenever I pointed my finger towards Tales from the crypt, Salems lot, or Evil dead when we were in a video store she wrinkled her nose and promptly said no.
Of course, later on I was able to get the movies myself. By the age of 12, I had a friend who kindly enough invited me over now and then for late nights with popcorn and Braindead. So early on I was accustomed to bloody flicks and gore galore.
Therefore, the findings of a gene that is linked to “why horror films make some people scream in terror while others may simply laugh” is hard to apply on people with the same horror background as me. The gene is involved in dopamine regulation, and the carriers of this variation generally response more dramatically to unpleasant images, due to the regulation affecting the startle reflex. It is completely new in evolution (which means that no other primate has it) and could be of some advantage. I would guess that being a stone age Homo sapiens, it would be better to be scared and run away than to stay and wrestle a sable toothed kittie.
If you're wondering about my title, it's from one of The storyteller episodes - Fearnot! I was obsessed with that tv-show when I were a kid. I have to buy that DVD-box soon...
Image revised from http://morningnoonandnight.wordpress.com/2007/09/20/honey-does-not-spoil/
Appearantly, it's 12 little bugs, that bug around in the stomach of the honey bee, which makes it able for honey to live up to the paradox of being both sweet and seductive yet healthy and antibacterial. Without the bacteria in their tummies, the bees are left without a immune system and are therefore an easy target for outer, wicked forces.Out of the 12 bacteria, four belongs to the gram-positive genus of Bifidobacteria, while the other eight belongs to the Lactobacillus genus. It would be soooooo cooooool to know how they've evolved along with the bees and how their genome looks like!
Image revised from http://twi-ny.com/twiny.01.04.06.html
Yesterday, my boyfriend and I took the advantage of living close to Copenhagen (we live in the 3rd largest city in Sweden; Malmö) and went to see Bodies - the exhibition, which is currently on display for all those willing to pay a couple of danish crowns (150 dkr, but since I still have a student licence I only had to pay 120 dkr - jie-ha!).The exhibition shows the body, that we all posess (surprising, huh!), from an inside perspective. By removing all bodily fluids and replacing them with a polymerizing substance all cells are kept in place and thus it's able to reveal how organs, tendons, muscles, nervs ect., are organized. This creates an extraoirdinary view of the human body that I bet you've never seen before (unless you're Jeffery Dahmer or something).
Image revised from http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/photos/popup.asp?gtitle=Bodies%3A%20The%20Exhibition&SubID=1823&page=0&css=gtitle.css&pubdate=09/27/06
The only semi-negative comment to BODIES that strucked me during my walk through the exhibition is that I'm a bit tired of they way that muséums always presents things rooting from live sciences. It's always short "this is how it is"- and "scientist has found"-notes that presents the objects on display. This doesn't really invite the visitors to question facts any further, which really is the machinery that keeps life science going. If the visitors are encouraged to parcipitate in any activity regarding the exhibition, it's always to conclude something that is said rather than something that invokes curiosity to know more. I may be naive but I believe that science could "catch" more attention and draw more minds to the field if we had a more humble and encouraging approach when showing off some gleam of findings to the people. Just a thought!Having said that, here are some more images from the exhibition:
Image revised from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/30/nyregion/30bodies.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
Image revised from http://www.typicallyspanish.com/news/publish/article_13616.shtml
Image revised from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/08/photogalleries/cadavers_exhibition_museum/
Ever thought about why your dog has a sweet-tooth and gladly indulge in your cookies and sweets, while if you offer your cat a piece he/she stares at you as if you were stupid just for thinking that he/she would even smell at it? Well, as much as some people would like to believe that cats are smarter than dogs (which is based on the independance of most cats compared to most dogs, which in turn is a false indication of intelligence since this reasoning would state that the lone ourangutangs are much, much more smarter than us human that likes to get along with all the other kids...but that's a whoooole different entry), this is not the answer to the candy question. Actually, cats can't taste the sweetness at all. Sometime during cat evolution the kittie ancestor lost the ability to have taste receptors for all things being sugary. I would think that this is ok since their diet is more dependant on amino-acids than carbohydrates (if I didn't have my childish liking of chocolate and cookies I would gladly remove this part of my genome too!)
Since this is not exclusive for our cute little homies that cuddles with us hairless primates, but concern all cats (tigers, lions, yeah you get it now) I suppose I'll be safe on a savannah if I dress up as a lolipop? This must be tested empirically...
We'd like to think that our gender/sex/whatever lies behind the stating that "it takes two to tango" is someting essential ever since we became a sperm&egg hybrid. Well, you could say that it is like that on the paper but nature can't really read. There are therefore several interesting "neither male nor female" cases both in cell way (such as Klinefelter syndrome, Triple X syndrome, XYY syndrome, Turner syndrome and so on) and in body way (hermaphroditism and ovotestism). There's nothing wrong with individuals having these so called "symptoms", other than that they fall out of what we preceive as being normal. As if anyone were...
Anyway! There's more beautiful examples found in nature of how unspecific gender determination could be. One goes under the term "gynandromorphism". It basically means that in a specimen you can find both male and female characteristics. This has been found in moths as well as in some lobsters. Take a look at the claws of the crab in the upper picture and you can see that one side shows female features whereas the other show male features.
There are two possibilities in this "condition": the sex differences can either be separated in two sides of the individual (called "bilateral gynandromorphism") or be mosaic.
Even if they have male and female characteristics, they are unable to use them for reproductive purposes. This, I suppose, is a way of preventing the possibility for the ultimate incestous mating to happen (self-fertilization, that is) since this isn't really a good thing if you're not a flower.
I also found a site stating that they have a gynandromorphic finch! Read about it here.
It's things like this that makes me feel unconfortable in waters where I can't see the bottom. I mean, it has fur, four paws and a tail and its huuuuge. And it lurks under the surface waiting for YOU.
Well, what could it be? A hoax? A deformed and decomposed whale? A goldfish that's been living in the spill water of a nuclear power plant? One of Cthulhu's spawns? A new species? If its the latter, it would be sooo cool to see how a live specimen looks like.
Maybe its some old, extinct animal that's been frozen for millions of years in some ice mass far away, but due to the warmer climate it has thawed and drifted away with the sea current. Whatever it is, it further confirms that that chill I get down my spine when I'm swimming over black water, has reason for being there.
Want to see more? Then go to: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/1833320/posts http://www.scienceray.com/Biology/Marine-Biology/Six-of-the-Seas-Scariest-Monsters.115045
I'm back from Wacken Open Air with a bucket full of good concert memories and stuff like that. This isn't really a curiosity post, but I had to tell the world that on the busride home I became the cradle for some newborn housefly maggots. It wasn't my intention at all, really. When a huuuuge fly landed on my leg I left it alone because I wanted to have a look at it before it flew away again. To my suprise, and somewhat to my disgust it started to shoot of small, twisting little maggots right on top of my leg. It managed to drop of abcout 10 little future flies before I was able to understand what really happened and waved it, and the maggots away. Quite a little adventure...