Wow, the milkweed in my pollinator’s garden is becoming a mini ecosystem!
This week a queen butterfly (Danaus gilippus) caterpillar showed up and started monch-monchin’ away. It looks similar to a monarch, in adult and caterpillar form, but there’s some key differences, like the three pairs antennae on the queen instead of just two on the monarch. It’s the only ‘pillar I’ve gotten so far this year, so I’m guarding the hell out of it in order to share come killer metamorphosis photos with you soon :)
I have no idea what kind of ‘hopper that is in the second photo, but it’s got some cool patterning. I don’t particularly like how it’s looking at me, though.
Achrioptera fallax (x)
That coloration is waaay too cool to not reblog. Those are colors I’d expect in a children’s cartoon, not in real life.
Of course this thing is from Madagascar, the island where evolution took LSD. I mean, more like Rad-agascar, amirite?
In all seriousness, Madagascar is a perfect example of the incredible diversity that results from evolution in isolation thanks to about 90 million years of being separated from the African continent. Find out more about where Madagascar’s species came from here.
See those flower-petal-esque wings? While they’re useless for flight, they do make some pretty cool predator-avoidance noises. Check out the video below to hear ‘em:
Btw, are you following endangereduglythings? Freaky fauna can (and often are) just as endangered or threatened as the cute kind. We should celebrate and protect nature’s oddities just as much as its supermodels!
(…besides humans, that is)
Biologists estimate that this animal has killed half of all humans that have ever lived, and today is responsible for more than 45 million years of lost human life annually. Chances are, you’ve been attacked by one.
Meet mankind’s most pesky foe in this week’s It’s Okay To Be Smart, and find out why they prefer some prey over others, what makes them so deadly, and how today’s bioengineers are trying to stop them… if such a thing is even possible.
EXCERPTS >|< Life History of a Mosquito (1928)
| Hosted at: Internet Archive
A series of Animated GIFs excerpted from Life History of a Mosquito, a video showing life cycle of Aedes Aegypti: microphotography of eggs; larva, pupa and then adult mosquito emerging; female and male breeding. Made in 1928 by Kodak Research Laboratories, in co-operation with the Dept. of Bacteriology of the Medical School, University of Rochester.
We invite you to watch the full video HERE
BONUS scary skeeter stuff: Have you ever wondered what it looks like from inside your flesh as a female mosquito’s mouthparts are searching for blood slurps? There’s a video for that.
DOUBLE BONUS scary skeeter stuff: Yesterday I was looking up facts about malaria and mosquito-borne illnesses are responsible for more than 40 million lost years of life EVERY YEAR.
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)
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.
Artist Hubert Duprat has collaborated with caddisfly larvae by placing them in an environment full of gold and jewels. The larvae then use these materials to make jewel-encrusted casings.
More info: http://is.gd/rDys2E
Source: Cabinet magazine via I fucking love science
Like a metamorphamillionaire.