Saturday 29 November 2014

Lego Arthropleura armata

Arthropleura armata is an extinct, large Carboniferous millipede. Here it is recreated in Lego at Brick2014.

DeviantArt page of the creator

Sunday 10 August 2014

Cicada Hairstyle

From BoingBoing: Cicada Hairstyle

Sunday 29 June 2014

In the News: Jellyfish Misquotation

From Bridport News: Giant jellyfish wash up on county coast

Barrel Jellyfish (Rhizostoma pulmo)

Sadly the newspaper does it's best to dramatise the event "A HOLIDAYMAKER had a shock when he stumbled across a giant jellyfish on a beach in Lyme Regis." I'm not sure where they expect to find washed-up jellyfish - but that bit of land between the sea and the cliff is a prime spot. If I found atop a lamppost in London, yes, I would be shocked. On a beach it's hardly worth mentioning.

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Wildlife Sound Guides

A list of published for identifying wildlife via sound. This list will be updated over time.

Collins Field Guide: Wildlife Sounds
Covers all species of UK animal identifiable by sound, includes audio CD.
New Naturalist: Grasshoppers and Crickets
UK Orthoptera. Includes DVD of audio and video recordings.
The Songs of the Grasshoppers and Crickets of Western Europe
European Orthoptera.

Saturday 5 April 2014

In the News: 'Touched' female cockroaches reproduce faster

From Touched' female cockroaches reproduce faster

Motorized tactile stimulation system shows the power supply (right), controller (center) and 20 Petri dishes mounted on a stepper motor. Inset shows an isolated female cockroach in a Petri dish with a duck feather mounted on the rotating motor shaft. Credit: Adrienn Uzsak

To speed up reproduction, there's no substitute for the tender touch of a live cockroach.
That's the major takeaway from a North Carolina State University study examining whether artificial antennae – in this case, duck feathers – can mimic a cockroach antenna's capacity to hasten in cockroach females.

Female cockroaches that get "touched" – by other female cockroaches and, under certain conditions, even by duck feathers that mimic roach antennae – reproduce faster than female roaches that live in isolation or without .

Pairing two cockroaches together – even roaches of different species – speeds up reproduction the most.

"To understand the mechanisms behind tactile stimulation and reproduction, we devised a motor-driven system using duck feathers as stand-ins for cockroach antennae. We found that these artificial antennae worked to stimulate certain hormones that speed up reproduction in the female German cockroach," says Dr. Coby Schal, Blanton J. Whitmire Professor of Entomology at NC State and the senior author of a paper describing the research. "We also found that the shape of the artificial antenna doing the 'touching' and the speed and duration of the stimulation were key factors that influenced reproduction speed."

Read more

Monday 24 March 2014

In The News: Vengeful Taxonomy: Your Chance to Name a New Species of Cockroach

From Entomology Today: Vengeful Taxonomy: Your Chance to Name a New Species of Cockroach

We’ve recently discovered a new species of cockroach in the genus Xestoblatta. It’s dirty, it’s ugly, it’s smelly, and it needs a name.
As part of our campaign to fund a project about how tropical landscapes drive evolution, we are offering the opportunity for anyone with enough cash to name this new species. Why would you want to name a down-and-dirty insect like that? Because it’s the most low-down and dirty of them all!
Read More

Saturday 22 March 2014

Inverts in the News: Scientists from the Museum of Victoria have rediscovered Australia's longest stick insect near Cairns

From Scientists from the Museum of Victoria have rediscovered Australia's longest stick insect near Cairns

Museum Victoria live exhibits keeper Maik Fiedel with "Lady Gaga-ntuan", a half a metre long stick insect rediscovered in rainforest near Cairns. 

Her name is Lady Gaga-ntuan and she was definitely born this way.

Scientists from the Museum of Victoria have rediscovered Australia’s longest stick insect near Cairns, during an expedition into the rainforest in January, reports the Townsville Bulletin .

Measuring half a metre long, the insect is only the third female Gargantuan Stick Insect (Ctenomorpha gargantua) specimen to ever be found.

Read More

Wednesday 5 March 2014

In the News: Lobster Used to Be ‘The Cockroach of the Sea’ and Only Fed to Servants and Cats

From FoodBeast: Lobster Used to Be ‘The Cockroach of the Sea’ and Only Fed to Servants and Cats

When someone says “lobster” some words that might come to mind are delicacy, fancy, luxurious and most dismally, market price. However, it wasn’t always this way. Formerly regarded as “the cockroach of the sea” and fed to servants, migrants and even people’s cats, lobster was the laughing stock of seafood. Regarded as a dish fit only for the poor, even having lobster shells in your house was looked upon as a sign of poverty. Yet today lobster is seen as the poshest of the posh, the cousin of caviar. So, how the hell did this happen?

It starts with industrialization. When the railways began to expand across America, transportation managers realized that if no one apart from people who lived on the coast knew what lobster was, trains could serve it to inland passengers as if it were a rare, exotic item. This plan seemed to work as people started demanding lobsters beyond the railways and it didn’t hurt that around this same time in the late 1800s, chefs discovered lobsters tasted much better when cooked live. Restaurants, too, got the memo. Then during World War II, lobsters weren’t rationed like other foods, and so people of all classes began to eat it and “discover” its deliciousness. By the 1950s, lobster established itself as a bona fide luxury food item.
Read More

Tuesday 4 March 2014

In the News: NMSU entomology professor studies cockroach control

From the Albuquerque Journal: NMSU entomology professor studies cockroach control

Thirty years ago, the Turkestan cockroach made its way from Asia to the U.S., becoming the most common and predominant cockroach in the Southwest, invading homes, barns and entire apartment complexes. Romero has been researching this pest for two years, trying to find ways to control it.
The Turkestan cockroach is a regularly seen in compost piles, leaf litter, potted plants, sewers, water-meter boxes, hollow block walls and under broken pavement.

In the lab, the colonies of Turkestan and other cockroaches, which are mostly gathered by putting sticky traps around the building or in the field, are kept in plastic or glass aquarium containers, feeding on dog food and water. The hundreds of cockroaches stay together inside cardboard egg cases, scattering as soon as they sense movement.

Turkestan cockroaches, which Romero has been collecting for three years, were first reported in California, Texas and Arizona and reproduce quickly, taking 6 months to grow to adult stage.

“Unfortunately there is not much information about this cockroach,” he said. “The most striking fact about Turkestan cockroaches is how well they have adapted to our climate and dry conditions and also their presence all year. Turkestan cockroaches also develop much faster than some other local cockroaches and this explains why they are more abundant.”

Read More

Monday 3 March 2014

In the News: How stick insects honed friction to grip without sticking

From How stick insects honed friction to grip without sticking

When they're not hanging upside down, stick insects don't need to stick. In fact, when moving upright, sticking would be a hindrance: so much extra effort required to 'unstick' again with every step.

Latest research from Cambridge's Department of Zoology shows that stick insects have specialised pads on their legs designed to produce large amounts of friction with very little pressure. When upright, stick insects aren't sticking at all, but harnessing powerful friction to ensure they grip firmly without the need to unglue themselves from the ground when they move.
In a previous study last year, the team discovered that stick insects have two distinct types of 'attachment footpads' - the adhesive 'toe pads' at the end of the legs, which are sticky, and the 'heel pads', which are not sticky at all. The insect uses different pads depending on direction and terrain.
By studying the 'heel pads' in more detail, researchers discovered the insects have developed a way to generate massive friction when walking upright. They do this through a system of tiny hairs that use combinations of height and curvature to create a 'hierarchy' of grip, with the slightest pressure generating very strong friction - allowing stick insects to grip but not stick.

Read More

Thursday 20 February 2014

Wednesday 12 February 2014

In the News: Cockroaches undergo dialysis to power sensor network for humans

From Crazy Engineers: Cockroaches undergo dialysis to power sensor network for humans

The marriage between electronics and cockroaches isn't incredibly new. Cockroaches have inspired new robot designs, acted as your remote controlled insects and allowed for stealth-mode antics. However, a new development at the Osaka University and the Tokyo University Of Agriculture & Technology aka TUAT allows for creation of special network of sensors using cockroaches. "What's New?" you may ask. Well, the sensors mounted on the back of cockroaches are powered by the cockroaches themselves; eliminating the need of relying on an external power source.

The research engineers were able to develop a new kind of fuel cell. The dimensions of this new fuel cell are 20mm x 15mm - allowing for easy mounting on the back of the cockroach. Once installed properly, the fuel cell uses a fluid called 'trehalose' inside cockroach's blood. The overall system comprises of electrodes, a container for the body fluid and a very tiny needle that goes into cockroach's body. The inner wall of the fluid container has a thin membrane for dialysis which allows for the body fluid to flow inside using diffusion.

Read More

Tuesday 11 February 2014

Lord Howe Island Phasmid film

The Lord Howe Island Stick Insect, Dryococelus australis, is listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It  is known only from Lord Howe Island and Ball’s Pyramid, a volcanic outcrop in the Tasman Sea just 200 m wide at the base. Young nymphs are bright green in colour and become darker as they grow, eventually turning a dark glossy brown or even black. Females are larger than males and can reach 13 cm in length.
The introduction of predatory black rats to the island by the trading vessel SS Makambo in 1918 led to the extinction of the species on Lord Howe Island, possibly as early as 1920. The Lord Howe Island Stick Insect was considered extinct in 1986; however, a small number of this species had survived on Ball’s Pyramid. Following research in the early 2000s, a pair was taken to begin a captive breeding programme.
This species is being reared successfully in captivity, and there are plans for a reintroduction to
Lord Howe Island if the eradication of the rats is successful. 
There is also now an animated film of the story!

Some things I have written on this species:

IUCN Species of the Day Page

NHM Species of the Day

Monday 10 February 2014

In the News: Experts at Glasgow's Botanic Gardens battle to save rare plants from being devoured by stick insects

From the Daily Record: Experts at Glasgow's Botanic Gardens battle to save rare plants from being devoured by stick insects

A COLONY of stick insects are eating their way through one of Scotland’s most important collection of plants.
Gardeners at Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens believe someone keeping stick insects as pets decided to dump them in the glasshouses.
They have bred rapidly and the bugs are devouring the displays.
It’s thought there are more than 100 stick insects feasting on rare, valuable and endangered plants and flowers.
Gardens curator Steve Herrington said: “We think someone’s got bored with the stick insects at home and released them into the gardens."
“They might have thought they would live happily in the warm glasshouses."
“It might have started with just two or three stick insects. But from there, they’ve become quite a large population."
“They keep breeding and we can’t find them all."

Read More

This is a surprisingly common occurrence - here is a list of food plants of Carausius morosus when it was introduced into the San Diego Zoo.

Thursday 23 January 2014

In the News: Cockroaches in Ears

From Doctors in Australia remove cokroach from man's ear

With the pain increasing further, Helmer’s roommate took him to the Royal Darwin Hospital, where a doctor poured olive oil down his ear canal. This only forced the roach to crawl in deeper, before it eventually began to die.
"Near the 10 minute mark ... somewhere about there, he started to stop burrowing but he was still in the throes of death twitching," Helmer said.
At this point the doctor put forceps into his ear and pulled out the cockroach.
“She [the doctor] said, ‘you know how I said a little cockroach? That may have been an underestimate’,” Helmer told the station. “They said they had never pulled an insect this large out of someone’s ear.”

Read More

This might seem an unusual story - but as Kroukamp & Londt (2006) report in SAMJ Forum, they're more likely than most other arthropods to end up in your ear (at least in South Africa). This paper also includes one of my favourite charts:

If you get any of these don't try and remove it with a vacuum cleaner.

Myna birds and stick insects

In the news recently were reports that the eradication of the introduced myna birds on Atiu in the Cook Islands has led to an increase in the number of coconut stick insects (which I assume to be Graeffea crouanii). I can't seem to find anything in the published literature about this, but Gerald McCormack is a well known natural historian of the Cook Islands, and has previously photographed a myna bird eating stick insects.

(C) Gerald McCormack source

Further reading
PestNet: Mynas, coconuts, stick insects & Oryctes, Fiji