Tiny Hairs on Honey Bee Claws Allow them to Taste Sugar and Salt
New research on the ability of honey bees to taste with claws on their forelegs reveals details on how this information is processed, according to a study published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.
Insects taste through sensilla, hair-like structures on the body that contain receptor nerve cells, each of which is sensitive to a particular substance. In many insects, for example the honey bee, sensilla are found on the mouthparts, antenna and the tarsi — the end part of the legs. Honey bees weigh information from both front tarsi to decide whether to feed, finds the latest study…
Here’s a brand new species of mite described this week. Is it from some strange sulfur deep sea vent? A parasite recovered from the pores of a pangolin? Nope, it’s from soil on the main campus of Ohio State University. The main author described the collection of this new species as an “event as lackluster as it was serendipitous.”
Bolton, Samuel & Hans Klompen. 2014. A new genus and species of Nematalycidae (Acari: Endeostigmata). Journal of Natural History. DOI: 10.1080/00222933.2013.859318
This tiny animal is so odd, it’s not just a new species; it’s been placed in a new genus within a very bizarre group of mites. Mites, you may remember, are close cousins of ticks. Most ticks and mites look like a blobby body with 8 legs.
This particular group of mites are long and wormy-looking. And they have a really fascinating outer cuticle; it looks like it’s covered with strings of beads…
The famed protein chain reaction that made mad cow disease a terror may be involved in helping to ensure that our recollections don’t fade
Prions, the protein family notorious for causing “mad cow” and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, can play an important role in healthy cells. “Do you think God created prions just to kill?” mused Nobel laureate Eric Kandel. “These things must have evolved initially to have a physiological function.”
His work on memory helped reveal that animals make and use prions in their nervous systems as part of an essential function: stabilizing the synapses that constitute long-term memories…
Pages from my ‘Levels of Complexity’ project, in which I wanted to explore ways in which I could communicate biology and science-based information in a more accessible illustrative style. I hoped to inspire some amount of awe at just how much is going on ‘beneath the surface,’ such as cells, tissues, organs, processes, etc within our bodies and our environment.
…a species of bdelloid rotifer that is native to Europe, New Zealand and North America. In Europe and New Zealand it is known to inhabit leaf litter, soil, and moss. Which is typical for rotifers. However, in North America it is known to live within the pitchers of the pitcher plant Sarracenia purpurea. In the pitcher it functions as normal, filtering the water around it for food using its cilia lined corona. H. rosa’s choice of habitat is an excellent example of Inquilinity, an animal that lives commensally in the dwelling of another organism.
Just a reminder that a cell is not a bag of water, but rather a crowded metropolis of macromolecules. The reality of cell biology, while more complicated than what your textbook shows you, is much cooler than a simple cartoon.
When you look at the inside of a cell as the crowded, semi-organized, collision-riddled mess that it really is, you’ll look at every bit of biological chemistry in a new way.
Filter-feeders emerge as potential defenders against a deadly amphibian disease.
by Yao-Hua Law
Chytridiomycosis, the deadly disease caused by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), has been decimating amphibian populations worldwide since the 1980s. “We have no means to stop its advance,” said Antje Lauer, a microbial ecologist at California State University in Bakersfield, “and no cure that can be used in the wild to protect amphibians from it.”
Bd affects amphibian skin, disrupting its ability to regulate electrolytes in the body, explained Jamie Voyles, an infectious disease ecologist at New Mexico Tech. Infected frogs lose excessive amounts of sodium and potassium, which are critical to keep their hearts pumping. Eventually, their hearts stop.
But new research suggests a potential preventive agent against Bd infection—one that may already be swimming all around the affected amphibians. Two recent studies demonstrated that aquatic microscopic fauna—such as Daphnia, Paramecium, and rotifers—can consume free-floating Bd zoospores, keeping Bd from infecting as many frogs…
Symbion pandora was the first species described in the new phylum Cycliophora in 1995. These tiny animals live in the North Atlantic, attached to the mouthparts of Norwegian Lobsters. They feed on bits of leftover food and don’t seem to harm their hosts.
The cycliophoran life cycle is incredibly complex. In addition to feeding sessile females, there are three different non-feeding larval stages and dwarf males that develop inside a larva that is attached to the outside of a mature female. Yikes!
Tiny early-instar millipedes found under a rotting log, in the Piedmont of Durham Co., NC, USA. Length about 0.8mm. Most likely in the order Chordeumatida.
“Millipedes grow by adding segments (including legs) just before the anal segment up to the for each species characteristic number of body segments. But all start as ‘hexapedes’...” - Franz Janssens | flickr
Bacterial Competition In Lab Shows Evolution Never Stop
by Nell Greenfield-Boyce
Evolution is relentless process that seems to keep going and going, even when creatures live in a stable, unchanging world.
That’s the latest surprise from a unique experiment that’s been underway for more than a quarter-century.
Evolution is so important for biology, medicine and a general understanding of our world that scientists want to understand it as fully as possible. That’s why, in 1988, biologist took a dozen glass flasks and added identical bacteria to each of them. Those 12 populations have been evolving ever since, letting scientists watch evolution in real time…
This is the bladder trap of an aquatic bladderwort under a microscope. Believe it or not, this is a modified leaf! It creates a vacuum inside the tiny balloon shaped leaf. The long guide hairs help swimming creatures find their way to the mouth, which is darker in this photo. When something approaches the mouth opens and the sides of the bladder pop out sucking the unfortunate victim in at 1/5000 of a second! It’s one of the fastest most complicated things in nature and it is still not clearly understood!
Reconstructing the Microbial Diversity and Function of Pre-Agricultural Tallgrass Prairie Soils in the United States
by Fierer, Ladau, et al.
Native tallgrass prairie once dominated much of the midwestern United States, but this biome and the soil microbial diversity that once sustained this highly productive system have been almost completely eradicated by decades of agricultural practices.
We reconstructed the soil microbial diversity that once existed in this biome by analyzing relict prairie soils and found that the biogeographical patterns were largely driven by changes in the relative abundance of Verrucomicrobia, a poorly studied bacterial phylum that appears to dominate many prairie soils.
Shotgun metagenomic data suggested that these spatial patterns were associated with strong shifts in carbon dynamics. We show that metagenomic approaches can be used to reconstruct below-ground biogeochemical and diversity gradients in endangered ecosystems; such information could be used to improve restoration efforts, given that even small changes in below-ground microbial diversity can have important impacts on ecosystem processes…