A beautiful illustration of a plant cell by Russell Kightley
From: a biology nerd and friends.
Velvet Worm - Slime Guns
The velvet worm - among the phylum, Onychophora - hunts by shooting fast drying adhesive at its prey and yes, I know what you’re thinking. The segmented worm-like organism can range from 0.5 to 20cm long and slime glands are located in the center region of the body making up about 11% of the total body weight in slime which is made mostly of water and some proteins.
In order to detect prey it senses slight changes in air currents with bumps on its skin and chemical sensors on its antennae to let them essentially taste something to determine if its food. When a prey item is eventually encountered, the slime is forcefully squirted through oral papillae near the head and launched up to 30cm in a sort of spray-and-pray manner. Once the slime contacts the victim, it quickly dries ensnaring it, where now the worm then seeks to eat the organism by injecting its saliva and digestive enzymes turning the innards into a slurpee. Mmm delicious.
The velvet worm are primarily nocturnal ambush predators and their senses and locomotion allow them to hunt. They move silently and fluidly with pneumatically inflated sets of valves to inflate/deflate their legs, meaning they don’t really rely on muscles for movement and is why it looks so cool as they glide along the ground. Another awesome thing about them is they have a tubular heart that extends almost the entire length of the body creating an open circulatory system.
Here is a diagram of the velvet worm anatomy
The Year of the Anglerfish.
I predict that anglerfish will gain in popularity in 2013. This AWESOME youtube video already has 5 million views, and only had 3 the last time I checked a few days ago…
In 2009, Hank Green uploaded a song about anglerfish, and I believe that is where I first learned about the biological anomaly of sexual parasitism in anglerfish (clarification from the ze frank video: only a few deep sea anglerfish species exhibit sexual parasitism, not all the ones shown in the video).
You guys, SEXUAL PARASITISM IS SO COOL. Superficially, it’s interesting because you can anthropomorphize the issue into ‘haha these men are utterly useless and the female anglerfish is this big ugly alpha female’.
BUT aside from that, anglerfish are extremely interesting because no other species does this. No other species has developed this strategy to deal with the empty loneliness of the deep sea.
Also thinking about the evolutionary steps necessary to get there is an exercise in mind-bending. Luckily, looking at current species help us here- aside from the handful of species that exhibit pure sexual parasitism, some exhibit partial parasitism where sometimes the males attach but don’t dissolve, or else attach briefly to mate and then swim away. From there, the smattering of steps needed to create the need for male parasitism is somewhat understandable.
Still, there are a lot of interesting questions to ask about this situation- for example, how does the female’s immune system get bypassed by the male? The blood of fish is not quite as intense as the blood of mammals, but presumably there are some form of antibody-detecting mechanisms to keep fish from getting sick, so how do they get bypassed when the male and female’s circulatory systems fuse?
I don’t know if these questions are answered; they weren’t when I wrote a research paper on them a few years ago, but the awesome thing about biology is that research is always going on and there are always new things to discover! And who knows, maybe with its newfound popularity the anglerfish will become a hot topic in science.
So I started a personal biology blog..
Ant Mills (Ant Death Spirals)
An ant mill is an observed phenomenon in which a group of army ants (or similar species) separated from the main foraging party lose the pheromone track and begin to follow one another, forming a continuously rotating circle. The ants will eventually die of exhaustion. This has been reproduced in laboratories and the behaviour has also been produced in ant colony simulations.
This phenomenon is a side effect of the self-organizing structure of ant colonies. Each ant follows the ant in front of it, and this will work until something goes wrong and an ant mill forms. An ant mill was first described by William Beebe in 1921 who observed a mill 1,200 feet (365 m) in circumference. It took each ant 2.5 hours to make one revolution. Similar phenomena have been noted in processionary caterpillars and fish. (via: Wikipedia)
see videos: http://io9.com/5895435/how-to-create-an-ant-spiral-of-death
“it’s so big.” - she
The eyes of giant and colossal deep-sea squid are 27 cm (10.6 inches) in diameter. Modeling suggests that the huge eyes are uniquely suited for spotting sperm whales,” said the research team.
Squid can regenerate body parts, and many marine animals can regenerate their eyes, so I can only hope that the one who lost this eye is still in the water of the living and will soon have a new eye.
Also see these vintage illustrations envisioning the body as a machine.
When studying monkeys in a reserve solely maintained for the purpose of protecting the insanely high endemic biodiversity and number of wasps and bees living therein (because, yes, such things exist), the ways in which one may be stung are infinite in their variety. These include:
1) While literally running after monkeys down a hill so steep you’re doing that frak-my-legs-can’t-catch-up-with-my-momentum kind of run. You’re mainly concerned with dodging trees (as you very well should be), but you should also watch out for the three wasp nests you’ll hit on the way down. At face level. It is the wet season, after all.
8 stings. Mainly on the face and arms.
2) While slowly, deliberately crossing a river on precarious stones, until the monkeys attack the fire wasp nest 20 meters above your head. And then continuously inside your shirt and hair as you run alongside the river. And then STILL in your hair even though you’re completely submerged in said river, because you really should have worn a hat today, stupid. It is the dry season, after all.
23 stings. Mainly on the scalp and neck, but also on your torso and arms.
3) While cleaning the trail with your machete. DO NOT INSTINCTIVELY SWAT IT AWAY WITH YOUR MACHETE.
1 sting. On the upper lip. And a really close call with that machete, you ass.
4) While just standing there, minding your own business. And you’d better run this time, because these particular bees are Africanized. And they’ll follow you for a kilometer. And they won’t stop stinging. And the buzzing is terrifying and low. And this can happen every day because the killer bees interbred with the local bee farmers’ hives. Because invasive species are life ruiners.
14 stings. Mainly on the face, neck, and hands. But that’s pretty lucky, because your field partner got 78 and had to go to the hospital.
So if you’re studying monkeys in a reserve solely maintained for the purpose of protecting the insanely high endemic biodiversity and number of wasps and bees living therein, and you hear a buzz, don’t just stand there…
this is fantastic and also terrifying.
How many pigeons does it take to use a drinking fountain? In Brisbane, Australia, apparently the answer is three! Earlier this month, a trio of industrious birds Down Under figured out how to operate a water fountain by observing humans and then making their move when the coast was clear. The feathered friends reportedly spent 10 minutes bathing and sipping from the fountain, taking turns pushing the lever for each other until all were quenched. Who are you calling a birdbrain now?
pigeons are ridiculously smart. They are also art critics.