A new study, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, is among the first to link parasites to cannibalism. It seems that according to researchers at the University of Leeds, that some parasites can make an animal more likely to eat its own kind.
There is sufficient evidence that certain parasites can influence and even directly control the behavior of those they infect. Mandy Bunke of the University of Leeds and her team assert that both parasites and cannibalism are ever-present in nature and documented in more than 3000 species, including humans.
“Increased demand for food by the parasites may drive the host to be more cannibalistic,” Bunk said. Co-author Mhairi Alexander of Stellenbosch University added, “We do know that parasites can affect foraging behavior and also vulnerability to predation in a range of species.”
During the study, researchers focused on the shrimpGammarus duebeni celticus, native to waters off Ireland. A tiny parasite called Pleistophora mulleri lives off of the shrimp.
Bunke and her team collected the shrimp from Downhill River at County Antrim, Northern Ireland. “We found that parasites had a surprising effect on their shrimp hosts, making them stronger cannibals,” Bunke said. “Adult shrimp with parasites ate more young shrimp of the same species than the uninfected shrimp did.”
Although the parasites are just 5 micrometers long millions of them invade the host’s muscles. Once inside, the parasites severely damage the shrimp’s muscles and continue to crave more nutrients. The host becomes hungrier too.
According to senior author Alison Dunn of the University of Leeds, “being more cannibalistic might help the host to deal with the cost of the infection as it gains more food.”
“Interestingly,” she continued, “we have also found in earlier work that infected shrimp may be able to catch and eat less prey of other animal species, so perhaps cannibalism of smaller shrimp is the only way these sick animals can survive.”
The Amazing Spider Brain!
Spiders are extraordinary creatures. Spiderman is perhaps the most well known demonstration of what spiders are capable of. And just like Peter Parker, spiders are not only phyiscally extraordianry but are mentally adept as well. The spider may be small and unassuming but its brain, like spider man, is nothing short of amazing.
With just apoppy-seed-sized head, spiders employ sophisticated hunting methods. They can successfully navigate their way out of complicated labyrinths, and some have developed a mating dance that takes the breath away from their fellow spiders. Elaborate decorations on the male’s abdomens come in bright fluorescent colors, with patterns that look like human faces and other artistic designs. Truly amazing. But the whole spider is only about five millimeters long. What is truly and even more amazing is a central nervous system that allows the male to raise and shake its colorful banner on command, and raise its third legs, in a complex mating display that could last an hour.
Mating is just one behavior controlled by a spider’s brain. The brain is aslo responsible for engaging all its senses, knowing how to hunt and find food and knowing how to operate its eight legs in a coordinated way.
Another amazing feature is their sophisticated visual systems. Jumping spiders have eight eyes. Mutiple eyes gives them a 360 degree (nearly) panoramic view in addition to two front-facing eyes that are as acute as as human’s. This visual combination allows these spiders to pursue and pounce on prey in the same way that cats do. The question that has been puzzzling scientists is how the spider brain actually processes the visual information.
Cornell biologist Ronald Hoy is one of the first scientists to look inside a live spider’s brain with a tiny electrode. He noted tha the organization of the spider brain is similar to any other brain. “If you look at a section of spider brain you’ll find that there are clusters of cell bodies with a cabling of the axons going from one part to another part and that’strue of insects and that’s true of us too,” Hoy says. “Things are just more compact in a spider’s brain because you’re packing a normal head brain into the thoracic ganglion.”
Beware of Carpenter Ants!
Carpenter ants are no joking matter. In fact, other than termites, they probably cause the most damage in homes because they hollow out wood in order to make their nests. Not only that, but their colonies can grow to be over 10,000 workers…that’s a lot of carpenter ants!
So, what can you do to keep them away? This video by Pestworld tells viewers signs of carpenter ants (mainly small saw dust/wood particles near cracks in the structure of a home) and what you can do to keep them away.
For instance, they are attracted to dampness so always ensure sources of moisture in and around the home are eliminated. It’s also important to fill in any cracks in the structure of the home itself.
As a first line of defense, however, call a reputable and experienced pest control company to assess the situation.
Darth Vader Meets Bugs
What do you get when you combine a mask of Darth Vader and a bunch of bugs? Surprisingly, a really brilliant and unique piece of art!
Artist Klaus Enrique was sketching a tarantula one day when he realized how similar the spider looked to the mouth and noise of the Darth Vader mask. He decided to explore what other insects he could use to create his own Darth Vader mask.
Accroding to Wired.com, Enrique spent four months arranging dead butterflies, moths, scorpions, and millipedes along with a fly and a cicada on a plasticine bust. The finished product is amazing and shows this iconic character in a light we have never seen before; a blend of beautiful, yet scary. The finished product took nearly 300 hours and used over 150 different insects sourced from around the world.
Enrique said of his creation, “When I saw [the finished statue] I was like ‘I think this Darth Vader happens to be even scarier than the real Darth Vader.”
What other iconic movie characters would you like to see made out of insects? The possibilities are endless!
We we love bugs today | Insects Inspire New Hearing Aid
Insects Inspire New Hearing Aid
In a world where most people are trying to terminate insects, it is nice to remind ourselves of the good they can bring.
According to phys.org, an insect inspired microphone that can cut down on background noise may revolutionize modern day hearing aids.
The miniature microphone used in these hearing aids will be similar to the ear of an insect. According to Dr. James Windmilll, of the Centre for Ultrasonic Engineering at Strathclyde, “Currently, users can tell whether a sound source is in front or behind, but struggle to detect sounds from below or above, such as echoes in a large room. We aim to solve the problem using a new type of miniature directional microphone, inspired by how some insects hear sounds.”
Insect inspired hearing aids… you “heard” it here first!
When Termites Attack!
A University of Florida study has found that two of the most destructive termite species in the world, those most responsible for the $40 billion dollars in economic loss each year due to termites, have created hybrid colonies that grow quickly and can possibly migrate to other states.
Nan-Yao Su, an entomology professor at UF Fort Lauderdale Research and education center explains that, “Because a termite colony can live up to 20 years with millions of individuals, the damaging potential of a hybrid colony remains a serious threat to homeowners even if the hybrid colony does not produce fertile winged termites.”
Worried about termites? Getting a professional in as soon as possible is key! Termites don’t mess around and neither should you.