fer1972:

Insect Sculptures made from Junk Stuff by Edouard Martinet

(via scientificillustration)

Will a butterfly die if I touch its wings?
Butterfly wings are made of very thin layers of a hardened protein called chitin. (Your hair and nails are also made out of this protein.) On top of these chitin layers are thousands of tiny scales that serve several purposes, which may vary for different species of butterflies.
Besides being responsible for the magnificent colors characteristic of butterflies, scales also protect and insulate the insects and aid in the flow of air along their wings as they fly. Scales also may help the butterfly to soak up the heat that flying requires. Since butterflies are cold-blooded, they rely on external sources of heat to bring their core temperature to a high enough level for their bodies to function. Preliminary research shows that even tiny changes in scale thickness can have a big impact on how well the scales absorb heat [source: Chiang].
If when you touch a butterfly’s wing, enough scales came off to negatively affect its heat absorption, it could conceivably lead to its death. If you’re wondering how you can tell that you brushed any scales off, just take a look at your fingers. That light dusting you see? Those are scales — and they rub off easily — partly to allow the butterfly to escape from predators in a tight situation. Unfortunately, that escape could ultimately lead to the same outcome as getting caught in the first place.
Beyond rubbing scales off, you could also break a butterfly’s wing if you handle it roughly. The upper wings, called the forewings, and the lower wings, called the hindwings, are both very fragile. Although they are strong enough to support the butterfly’s body in the air, they are also flexible to enable flight. Although you can’t see them, a system of miniscule veins runs through the wings and if the vein on the forewing gets broken, the butterfly will usually die [source: Opler].
So while death isn’t necessarily imminent for a butterfly if you happen to touch its wings, the odds aren’t on its side either. The moral of this story is to keep all hands and feet inside the vehicle and leave the butterflies alone.
For more on butterflies, read on… 

Will a butterfly die if I touch its wings?

Butterfly wings are made of very thin layers of a hardened protein called chitin. (Your hair and nails are also made out of this protein.) On top of these chitin layers are thousands of tiny scales that serve several purposes, which may vary for different species of butterflies.

Besides being responsible for the magnificent colors characteristic of butterflies, scales also protect and insulate the insects and aid in the flow of air along their wings as they fly. Scales also may help the butterfly to soak up the heat that flying requires. Since butterflies are cold-blooded, they rely on external sources of heat to bring their core temperature to a high enough level for their bodies to function. Preliminary research shows that even tiny changes in scale thickness can have a big impact on how well the scales absorb heat [source: Chiang].

If when you touch a butterfly’s wing, enough scales came off to negatively affect its heat absorption, it could conceivably lead to its death. If you’re wondering how you can tell that you brushed any scales off, just take a look at your fingers. That light dusting you see? Those are scales — and they rub off easily — partly to allow the butterfly to escape from predators in a tight situation. Unfortunately, that escape could ultimately lead to the same outcome as getting caught in the first place.

Beyond rubbing scales off, you could also break a butterfly’s wing if you handle it roughly. The upper wings, called the forewings, and the lower wings, called the hindwings, are both very fragile. Although they are strong enough to support the butterfly’s body in the air, they are also flexible to enable flight. Although you can’t see them, a system of miniscule veins runs through the wings and if the vein on the forewing gets broken, the butterfly will usually die [source: Opler].

So while death isn’t necessarily imminent for a butterfly if you happen to touch its wings, the odds aren’t on its side either. The moral of this story is to keep all hands and feet inside the vehicle and leave the butterflies alone.

For more on butterflies, read on… 

archiemcphee:

The next time you’re in Paris, if you get a hankering for something out of the ordinary, visit Le Festin nu (“The Naked Fest”), a bar and bistro in Montmartre where you can sit down to a meal of insect-based tapas. French chef Elie Daviron prepares the dishes, which include grasshoppers, worms, beetles, and scorpions.

Photos by Patrick Kovarik.

[via The Calgary Herald]

mothernaturenetwork:

How ‘insect soup’ DNA could help conservation effortsA new insect identification process could enable scientists to effectively monitor endangered species across different regions, countries and continents.

mothernaturenetwork:

How ‘insect soup’ DNA could help conservation efforts
A new insect identification process could enable scientists to effectively monitor endangered species across different regions, countries and continents.

neuromorphogenesis:

Tiny backpacks for dragonflies track their brains in flight
The brain of a dragonfly has to do some serious calculations — and fast — if it hopes to nab a mosquito or midge in midair. It has to predict the trajectory of its prey, plot a course to intersect it, then make adjustments on the fly to counteract any evasive manoeuvres. Neuroscientist Anthony Leonardo created the tiny dragonfly backpack above to study how circuits of neurons do these computations.
The backpack weighs 40 milligrams, about as much as a couple grains of sand, equal to just 10 percent of the dragonfly’s weight. Electrodes inserted into the dragonfly’s body and brain record the electrical activity of neurons, and a custom-made chip amplifies the signals and transmits them wirelessly to a nearby computer.
One of the trickiest design challenges was how to power the chip without adding so much mass that the insects couldn’t get off the ground, says Leonardo, who’s based at Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia.
He and collaborators at Duke University and Intan Technologies came up with a clever solution based on the same technology found in the RFID key card access system used in many office buildings. There, a reader, usually a small pad next to a door, emits radio waves to create a magnetic field. When a key card gets close enough to the reader, the magnetic field induces a current that powers a chip inside the card, enabling it to transmit a code to unlock the door.
The two long antennae on the dragonfly backpack harvest radio waves and power the chip in a similar way. Eliminating the need for a battery on the backpack was the key to keeping the weight down. 
Getting dragonflies to hunt inside the lab turned out to be a little tricky too, Leonardo says. In a plain white room, the insects exhaust themselves trying to escape. So the team installed turf on the floor, installed a small pond, and covered the walls with a scene that evokes a springtime meadow.
In their experiments, the researchers release fruit flies and watch the dragonflies take off from a perch and catch them. Eighteen high-speed infrared video cameras positioned around the room capture every move as a dragonfly closes in on its prey and launches its body upwards, curling its hairy legs inward to form a sort of basket trap.
As the dragonfly hunts, the backpack captures the firing of neurons Leonardo thinks play a crucial role in guiding it towards its prey. “We know a lot about their anatomy,” he said. “They gather input from visual parts of the brain and send axons down to the motor neurons that move the wings.”
The question that fascinates Leonardo is how those neurons and others transform information about the visual scene into a plan of action, and how they continuously update the plan as the dragonfly and its prey move through space. All animals do this type of transformation, from a centre fielder running down a fly ball to a lion running down a gazelle. But a neuroscientist can’t exactly study those situations in the lab.

"The dragonfly is a convenient and beautiful and elegant means to an end," Leonardo said.

neuromorphogenesis:

Tiny backpacks for dragonflies track their brains in flight

The brain of a dragonfly has to do some serious calculations — and fast — if it hopes to nab a mosquito or midge in midair. It has to predict the trajectory of its prey, plot a course to intersect it, then make adjustments on the fly to counteract any evasive manoeuvres. Neuroscientist Anthony Leonardo created the tiny dragonfly backpack above to study how circuits of neurons do these computations.

The backpack weighs 40 milligrams, about as much as a couple grains of sand, equal to just 10 percent of the dragonfly’s weight. Electrodes inserted into the dragonfly’s body and brain record the electrical activity of neurons, and a custom-made chip amplifies the signals and transmits them wirelessly to a nearby computer.

One of the trickiest design challenges was how to power the chip without adding so much mass that the insects couldn’t get off the ground, says Leonardo, who’s based at Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia.

He and collaborators at Duke University and Intan Technologies came up with a clever solution based on the same technology found in the RFID key card access system used in many office buildings. There, a reader, usually a small pad next to a door, emits radio waves to create a magnetic field. When a key card gets close enough to the reader, the magnetic field induces a current that powers a chip inside the card, enabling it to transmit a code to unlock the door.

The two long antennae on the dragonfly backpack harvest radio waves and power the chip in a similar way. Eliminating the need for a battery on the backpack was the key to keeping the weight down. 

Getting dragonflies to hunt inside the lab turned out to be a little tricky too, Leonardo says. In a plain white room, the insects exhaust themselves trying to escape. So the team installed turf on the floor, installed a small pond, and covered the walls with a scene that evokes a springtime meadow.

In their experiments, the researchers release fruit flies and watch the dragonflies take off from a perch and catch them. Eighteen high-speed infrared video cameras positioned around the room capture every move as a dragonfly closes in on its prey and launches its body upwards, curling its hairy legs inward to form a sort of basket trap.

As the dragonfly hunts, the backpack captures the firing of neurons Leonardo thinks play a crucial role in guiding it towards its prey. “We know a lot about their anatomy,” he said. “They gather input from visual parts of the brain and send axons down to the motor neurons that move the wings.”

The question that fascinates Leonardo is how those neurons and others transform information about the visual scene into a plan of action, and how they continuously update the plan as the dragonfly and its prey move through space. All animals do this type of transformation, from a centre fielder running down a fly ball to a lion running down a gazelle. But a neuroscientist can’t exactly study those situations in the lab.

"The dragonfly is a convenient and beautiful and elegant means to an end," Leonardo said.

the-science-llama:

Shield Bug
Microscopy by Francis Prior

mothernaturenetwork:



 ‘More Than Honey’: A film to fuel the fight to save bees  



Swiss director Markus Imhoof’s new documentary balances microphotography with compelling storytelling. The film that will debut on June 10.

mothernaturenetwork:

Swiss director Markus Imhoof’s new documentary balances microphotography with compelling storytelling. The film that will debut on June 10.

mothernaturenetwork:



 Genetically altered mosquitoes lose their taste for humans  



Mosquitoes that can’t smell anything are not as attracted to humans, which may help researchers find new ways of repelling them.

mothernaturenetwork:

Mosquitoes that can’t smell anything are not as attracted to humans, which may help researchers find new ways of repelling them.

mothernaturenetwork:

How to repel mosquitoes naturally
We’ll help you take back your summer with eco-friendly tips for how to control mosquito problems in the yard.

mothernaturenetwork:

How to repel mosquitoes naturally

We’ll help you take back your summer with eco-friendly tips for how to control mosquito problems in the yard.

jtotheizzoe:

skeptv:

Parasitic Mind Control

Now this is strange, even scary: ants controlled by parasites, all because they ate the slime of a snail!

via National Geographic.

Ever get that not-so-sentient feeling? At least you aren’t an ant.

jtotheizzoe:

Happy Mothers Day! Here’s some of the best and most interesting moms in the animal kingdom. Send some love to the Homo sapiens that made ya today!

  • Harp seals have to care for their fluffy, marshmallow-like pups in an icy, scary world patrolled by polar bears. The little snowy cotton balls have to gain weight fast in order to survive the cold and avoid predators. So their moms help them gain five pounds a day for the first 12 days by feeding them milk that is 48% fat! How is that even liquid?! It’s like feeding them butter. Oh, and the moms don’t eat for the whole time!
  • Queen bees are some of the hardest working moms in terms of pure reproduction. If a fertilized (and therefore female) bee egg is laid in a special honeycomb receptacle and continuously fed a secretion called “royal jelly”, it will develop into a queen. That queen will mate with one or many drone males, storing their sperm to lay as many as 2,000 eggs a day (both fertilized female workers and unfertilized drone males) to stock the hive. That’s a lot of kids to look out for.
  • Elephants never forget … that they carried their young for 22 months, the longest pregnancy term of all mammals. A 22 month pregnancy. Just let that sink in the next time your back hurts a little. Of course, that’s nothing compared to the frilled shark, who can carry its young for as long as 3.5 years, probably because it’s so terrifying that it doesn’t want to scare its children to death.
  • Earwigs aren’t known for being a particularly heartwarming species, but the females are unique among non-social insects for attending to their larva, helping them hatch, feeding them regurgitated food, guarding them until they molt into adults, and even allowing them to eat her if they are starving. Of course, sometimes they have been known to eat their eggs to, so it’s not all cuddles and kisses in earwig families.
  • Orangutan moms and babies might take the cake for pure cuteness. I know we aren’t supposed to humanize animals and read our emotions into their lives, but come on. There is something very close to love between mothers and children among these, the most playful of great apes. Orangutan mothers take seven years between pregnancies, and will care for their young for at least two years among the treetops. For the first four months they never break physical contact with their young, and build a new nest of leaves and twigs every night for fresh, comfy orangu-snuggles. Best ape ever (they love puppies!)

(images via Wikipedia, Shutterstock)

(via the-science-llama)