Saturday 25 May 2013

In the Blogs: Monteith's Leaf Insect, Phyllium monteithi Brock and Hasenpusch, in Detail

Over at BunyipCo David Rentz has some new photographs of this elusive species.

Monteith's Leaf Insect, Phyllium moneithi Brock and Hasenpusch, has been noted in this blog on several occasions. Females are very rarely found. They seem to be restricted to the rainforest canopy and are reluctant to fly, if they can. Only a single female has been discovered in several years of searching by many local enthusiasts. Males come to lights and one was found in mid-May, rather late in the season. This one seemed especially photogenic and lent itself to some close-up photography.

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Friday 24 May 2013

In the News: Cockroach Double Whammy

New to nature special: the top 10 new species

 Glow-in-the-dark cockroach (Lucihormetica luckae), Ecuador

Luminescence among terrestrial animals is rather rare and best known among several groups of beetles — fireflies and certain click beetles in particular — as well as cave-inhabiting fungus gnats. Since the first discovery of a luminescent cockroach in 1999, more than a dozen species have 'come to light'. All are rare, and interestingly, so far found only in remote areas far from light pollution. The latest addition to this growing list is L. luckae that may be endangered or possibly already extinct. This cockroach is known from a single specimen collected 70 years ago from an area heavily impacted by the eruption of the Tungurahua volcano. The species may be most remarkable because the size and placement of its lamps suggest that it is using light to mimic toxic luminescent click beetles

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Cockroaches lose their 'sweet tooth' to evade traps
A strain of cockroaches in Europe has evolved to outsmart the sugar traps used to eradicate them. American scientists found that the mutant cockroaches had a "reorganised" sense of taste, making them perceive the glucose used to coat poisoned bait not as sweet but rather as bitter. 
A North Carolina State University team tested the theory by giving cockroaches a choice of jam or peanut butter. 
They then analysed the insects' taste receptors, similar to our taste buds.
Researchers from the same team first noticed 20 years ago that some pest controllers were failing to eradicate cockroaches from properties, because the insects were simply refusing to eat the bait. 
Dr Coby Schal explained in the journal Science that this new study had revealed the "neural mechanism" behind this refusal.  
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Wednesday 22 May 2013

Inspired by Inverts: Swiss Research Group Creates Their Own Insect-Inspired Compound Eye Cam

via PetaPixel: Swiss Research Group Creates Their Own Insect-Inspired Compound Eye Cam

 A few weeks ago, a team of researchers from all over the world boasted that they had created the world’s first working compound eye cam at the University of Illinois. Sort of like a balloon with 180 node-like “ommatidia” on it, the camera was quite an achievement.
 It didn’t take long, however, for another team of researchers to break into the same market and offer the Illinois camera some bug-eyed competition. The Swiss research group Curvace has created a 180-degree field of view camera that looks a little like something Star Trek’s Geordi La Forge would wear.
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Monday 20 May 2013

In the News: UN calls for insect recipes to fight world hunger

From The Telegraph: UN calls for insect recipes to fight world hunger 

The 200-page report, released by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, on May 13 at the organisation's Rome headquarters, called for restaurants, chefs and food writers to promote the eating of insects, in a bid to fight world hunger and global warming.
"Insects are everywhere and they reproduce quickly," the FAO said, adding they leave a "low environmental footprint.
They provide high-quality protein and nutrients when compared with meat and fish and are "particularly important as a food supplement for undernourished children".
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Sunday 19 May 2013

In the news: Bruchid Beetle's Penis: 'Terrifying' Organ Useful For Sexual Selection, Scientists Say

From the Huffiington Post: Bruchid Beetle's Penis: 'Terrifying' Organ Useful For Sexual Selection, Scientists Say

Male bruchid beetles, also known as cowpea weevils, have spines on their penises that puncture the female reproductive tract during mating, causing significant internal damage to females.

According to an article in the journal Behavioral Ecology, the sex is so unpleasant that the females are known to kick their mates off them to make the deed as quick as possible.

The penis of a Callosobruchus maculatus beetle (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
So why do these beetles have such "terrifying" penises?

A group of Swedish and American scientists has manipulated the male genitalia of bruchid beetles to find out why the insect's penis has evolved to be quite so "nasty, sharp and destructive," Science Nordic reports.

What the researchers have discovered is that the bruchid beetle's penis -- though menacing in its spiny appearance and likely not pleasurable for its mate -- is useful for sexual selection.
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