Taking the buzz out of life

28 07 2010

Nature has an interesting article exploring the ramifications of a world without mosquitoes.

Overall the benefits appear to outweigh the negatives – but they are still given their credence. Mosquitoes, and their larvae, may be physicaly miniscule, but they are big players in the scheme of things. Their removal would have effects on food chains containing birds and fish, plus wider ecological effects – such as plants losing pollinators and changes to deer migration, and also possibly cause over-population in already stretched human communities.

Image: mosquito by tanakawho (CC by A from Flickr)


It’s Alive in Sydney: Sexy legs, sees

22 04 2009

Bandangi Millipede 001

A millipede on a rock – in Badangi Reserve on the Lower North Shore of Sydney.

Taking this photo with a flash prompted me to ask Alex Wild (currently featured at SciBorg’s Photo Synthesis) if flash photography can harm or distress insects and other invertebrates. His answer – not that he knows*.

This critter did not curl up and die afterwards, at least not that I saw, so my conscience feels fine.

More millipede shots below the fold as I tested my camera out in the field.

Read the rest of this entry »

Information from me and you

1 03 2009

In an effort to fight the looming competition from Wikipedia (remember the comparison back in 2005; Nature, BBC), Encyclopedia Britannica has decided to put some dramatic changes into action…

No, not quite that dramatic.

But they are  going to start to allow some user-driven content:

Readers and users will also be invited into an online community where they can work and publish at Britannica’s site under their own names. Interested users will be able to prepare articles, essays, and multimedia presentations on subjects in which they’re interested. Britannica will help them with research and publishing tools and by allowing them to easily use text and non-text material from Encyclopaedia Britannica in their work. We will publish the final products on our site for the benefit of all readers, with all due attribution and credit to the people who created them. The authors will have the option of collaborating with others on their work, but each author will retain control of his or her own work. – Britannica Blog

The main encyclopedia ” will continue to be edited according to the most rigorous standards” – but will now allow basic users”to suggest text changes, updates, photos, videos, bibliographies, Web links and other reference materials and improvements”. Most importantly, Britannica will recognise this content: “Anyone whose contributions are accepted for publication will be credited in detailed article-history pages in the encyclopedia.”

The core expert editor community, with user community advice, all by attribution is also the model being used by Medpedia. Which launched earlier in February.

The future of online user generated content?

What lurks beneath

6 11 2008

Deep Sea News (which remember is now at Discovery Blogs) has finished its countdown of the top 27 deep sea beasties.

They chose the Vampire Squid as #1. I think its kind of boring. All it has is a cool name. Ooooh Senor El Diablo Chupacabre of the Deep you have me quaking with your stylish overtones and stereotypical horror theme tune. NOT!

I definitely think more of #2 Zombie Deap Sea Bone Worms!!!

Rest of the list is linked to below. The rest of my top 5 in bold (Zombie worms are my number 1).

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Russian moths “vant to suck your blood”

4 11 2008

… because it helps them get laid.

Human blood is apparently some sort of horny-goat-weed for Lepidoptera apparently.

The story has been everywhere. Everywhere! Nothing could be more halloweeny than a vampire blood-sucking moth. Hattip is going to Zooillogix, cos I saw it there first.

The blood sucking moth does not digest the blood. Repeat: It does not feed on the blood. No actual haemophagy.

So it is very “transitional form” about it. The exact function for sucking blood is not yet understood. The “it’s to feed the babies” answer does sound a bit pulled-out-of-my-ass, but I’m not an entymologist.

Only male moths exhibit blood-feeding, she noted, raising the possibility that as in some species of butterflies and other moths, the Russian moths do it to pass on salt to females during copulation.

See it is all sex’s fault that nature does weird things.

Whatever the ecological motivation for the adaption is, it is very cool to be able to “see” an evolutionary stepping stone from a flower-feeding apparatus to one that can also suck blood (I’m assuming they are still eating nectar, right?).

Morphological adaptions do not start out being used the way they end up being used. Organs are co-opted, un-opted and re-opted to new and exciting purposes throughout the ages. Our ear bones were once jaw bones. Spider silk was originally developed as bedding insulation. And for all we know, we may actually be the a larval form of some unbeknownst higher being that lives far too long to ever reach metamorphosis. Oh yes. I just blew your freaking mind.

Because it is a bird-eating spider

27 10 2008

Actually it is only an orb-weaver, a very lucky orb weaver.

Yes, it does look to be for real (I know its the dailymail). I don’t think that spider will have to eat for the rest of the year. Jackpot!!

We have spiders just like that in my back yard. And birds that size too…

hattip: GrrlScientist

Nature doesn’t care about you

9 10 2008

It only cares about your children…

Perhaps a certain biologist going all silly billies should brush on his basic evolutions.

Evolution does not care too much about anything that occurs after reproduction, unless its more reproduction.

As much as they drill you “survival of the fittest”, nature is not the Olympics, it’s not about Faster, Higher, Stronger – it’s about rampant bunny sex. But don’t you dare tell the children.

Oh, somebody please think of the children!