Tripedal to the Metal
That’s some loco motion, huh? Found this neat little GIF showing how an ant’s legs move at a full gallop. While calmly strolling though the picnic grounds, ants have five of their six legs at a time in contact with the ground. But when it’s time to put the (tiny) pedal to the metal, they change their gait to this alternating tripod motion.
This pattern isn’t controlled by the insect’s brain, but rather by bundles of neurons in the leg called central pattern generators. While moving at such a clip, it just so happens that three legs is the minimum number it needs on the ground at a time to balance its rigid exoskeleton without toppling over.
Is that part of the reason that insects have six legs and not another number like four or eight? Or did the gait evolve to match the hardware? My guess is the latter, but I am not sure. What say you, insect folks?
(GIF via NC State University)
Crocodiles vs. Alligators
If you’re staring imminent death in the face, it’s best to know which genus and species is staring back. Sadly, does not feature actual footage of crocodiles versus alligators, but I’ll let that slide.
Also, The Brain Scoop got a makeover! Do you love it? I love it. A great show just got greater. We’re all gonna have to step up our game to keep up with you, Emily
Star and firefly trails, from Vincent Brady’s “Firefly Time-Lapse” (which you seriously need to go watch, like right now … what are you waiting for?)
The Firefly Time-Lapse
Wow. This one is simply stunning. A wonderful new time-lapse from Vincent Brady, with music from Brandon McCoy, captures fireflies like Earthbound shooting stars against the backdrop of the night sky that we usually see in videos like these. Using long exposures and stacked images, this time-lapse operates on two scales: Terrestrial and astronomical.
Ahhh, good ol’ Photina pyralis, those harbingers of warmer days, those bearers of chemical candlelight, those blinking lovers calling out for a mate on long summer nights.
Photina creates its light using a process called chemiluminescence, mediated by an enzyme called luciferase. The luciferase protein, a name which stirs images of fiery spirits, grabs on to its chemical target, a molecule called luciferin, sitting ready, but dark, in the active site of the protein, like an unlit firework. Luciferase then reaches for a molecule of ATP, every living cell’s energy source, luminescent or not, capturing its chemical energy like a sprinkling of gunpowder on a fuse. It breaks apart that ATP into AMP and pyrophosphate, and with the release of that fiery-sounding byproduct, the invocation of fire begins.
Now oxygen gas, the very fuel fire needs to burn, rips away the AMP and sits down in its place. The fuse is burnt, the fire has food, and it’s time to ignite. Exhaling carbon dioxide, the luciferin molecule is excited into oxyluciferin, its atoms charged full via oxidation. Almost instantly, it relaxes back to a resting state, shooting out a photon like a quantum bullet.
And so it happens, millions of times a minute, in invisible pyralis posteriors that only betray their location in fleeting flashes of chemistry as they streak across the twilight sky.
Think about that as you watch this, speakers up, full screen.
Eat Your Tardigrades or You Don’t Get Dessert!
You know this little guy, right? It’s the mighty tardigrade, as featured in the new Cosmos. Tardigrades, also known as water bears, also known as FREAKIN’ MOSS PIGLETS, are microscopic eight-legged animals that can withstand temperatures from near absolute zero to boiling water, absorb extreme doses of radiation, go without food or water for ten years, and even survive the vacuum of space. They can even be completely dried out and ride on the wind to a new home, where they rehydrate and go about their tardibusiness. Tardigrade rain, folks.
In other words, they are BAMFs (bad-ass microfauna).
Oh, and you’ve probably eaten them. Thanks to Meg Lowman, I found out that these water-dwelling super-critters live not only on wild mosses and wet plants, but on grocery store produce like lettuce and spinach. Do you think that a mere rinse or shake under the faucet (or even cooking) is enough to dislodge a radiation-eating space pig? Ha! Not by a long shot, according to Lowman.
So yeah… trying to go strictly vegetarian? You’ve almost certainly eaten some tardigrades. Sorry. Don’t worry, though. They’re totally harmless. I like to imagine that when I eat them, I absorb their power, and become a little bit mightier.
New motto: For strength, eat your vegetables and eat your tardigrades.
Meg Lowman has more about your local tardigrade friends. Also check out Lowman’s awesome research project that helps wheelchair-bound students climb to the top of the forest canopy where they help study tardigrade biodiversity. Science is for everyone!
David Attenborough, a man who lives and breathes nature.
Lovely illustration by Elda The (Thousand Skies).
Here, in a video from BBC Earth, Sir David is hanging out with an amazing tool-using orangutan, paddling a canoe (the orangutan is paddling, that is) and washing some socks (again, the orangutan, not Dave):
finally! my moth reaction gif compilation
from now on i will only express feels in moth gifs
edit (not mine):
"A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them." - Steve Jobs
I assume he was talking about a gallery of moth reaction GIFs.
This obnoxiously long infographic is your reminder to check out this post from earlier today and join me in calling for a stop to the inhumane and unscientific Western Australia shark cull (not to mention shark finning in general, which is an even greater problem)!!