Now scientists have recently discovered that dragonflies have the best vision in the animal kingdom. The insect has up to 33 different types of light sensitive proteins so that it can see more colors and details that humans and any other known species. s
At Sokendai, Kitasato University and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Tsukuba, Japan, researchers from the Tokyo University of Agriculture studied the compound eyes of 12 dragonfly species. They found that dragonflies have between 15 and 33 opsin genes which enable them to see in incredible detail.
According to the study published in the journal PNAS, Opsins are light sensitive proteins found in the retinas of humans and animals. Having between 15 and 33 is according to researchers, ‘an extraordinary large number.’ Humans have tri-chromatic vision. We see in red, blue and green and have just three opsins. Each opsin absorbs one color of light in the spectrum. The various wavelengths of light reflected from objects mix together enabling us to see some 10 million different colors. Tri-chromatic vision is common among mammals, birds, and other animals, including some  insects.

While it is impossible for scientists to see through dragonfly eyes, researchers believe the insects are able to see more colors than humans. Previous studies have found that each of a dragonfly’s bulbous eyes are made up of up to 30,000 facets that contain the opsins. Each facet points in a slightly different direction. This multidirectional feature enables dragonflies to see in all directions at the same time. Dragonflies can also see ultraviolet as well as blue, green and red, which aids them in hunting prey.

When a dragonflies visual sensing elements combine, they produce a variety of ‘images’ which are combined in the creature’s brain to create its vision. How this actual happens is still a mystery.

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How geckos stay clean, even in a dusty environment

Most people would agree that being clean and looking good are important to being successful. The Geico Gecko, for example, promotes that clean slick appearance that the insurance company wants you to associate with their services and products. Interestingly enough, real geckos, already loaded with cool adaptations that help it be successful, also features special skin that has a self-cleaning mechanism.

Australian researchers from James Cook University in Queensland investigation were curious to find out what other magical properties the scaly animal’s skin might be hiding. Their study, “Removal mechanisms of dew via self-propulsion off the gecko skin,” found ‘little water-droplets that form via condensation on the gecko’s surface autonomously jump like popcorn off the animal’s skin as they merge and release energy taking all the dirt and dust with them.’

Similar “propulsion” mechanisms had only been observed in insect wings. The main advantage of the propulsion mechanism for insects is that their wings have to stay dry to function properly. And it seems it may have other advantages for geckos. Because microorganisms (bacteria) thrive in humid conditions, propulsion may help prevent infections.

Geckos are reptiles. They can be found on every continent except Antarctica. Geckos are capable of living in rain forests, deserts or cold mountain slopes. Over many years, geckos have developed many special features to help them survive and avoid predators. Most commonly known for their tails, they serve many purposes. In addition to balancing their weight while climbing, they store fat for energy. Geckos are also able to shed their tails if a predator grabs them.

Geckos are primarily nocturnal, but some geckos are active during the day foraging on insects, fruits, and flower nectar. Most geckos make chirping noises, barking sounds and clicking when defending territory or attracting a mate. Geckos lay eggs in leaves and bark. Most geckos don’t have movable eyelids. They have one transparent eyelid which they keep clean by licking it with their tongues.




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As funding to combat invasive pests grows, Florida finds success battling giant snails

As funding to combat invasive pests grows, Florida finds success battling giant snails

Two Giant African Land Snails are held by a Florida Department of Agriculture worker searching for the pests in Dade County on Sept. 5, 2012.


Among other major projects

– In California, $4 million has been dedicated for an exotic fruit fly survey, as well as more than $3 million for “detector dog” teams.

– In Hawaii, $2.2 million has been dedicated to responding to detection of the coconut rhinoceros beetle.

– In Pennsylvania, $1.5 million will go to eradicating the spotted lantern fly.

WASHINGTON — Federal agriculture officials are spending nearly $60 million this year to help combat the beetles, bollworms and other bugs that have the potential to wreak havoc on American crops, with California and Florida taking the biggest share.

The money, which comes from the 2014 farm bill, will go toward more than 400 projects intended to assess current conditions and prevent further damage that can happen when species that aren’t native to an area are introduced and begin to eat their way through crops not intended for them.

The top states are California, which was awarded about $13 million for pest and plant programs, and Florida, with more than $7 million. The spending plan was announced last week.

Of Florida’s money, the biggest chunk is going to attacking the giant African land snail, a slow-moving threat that quickly caused concern among state agriculture officials about four years ago.

The snails, originally from East Africa, can grow to 8 inches and live as long as nine years.

According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which plays a major role in attacking the snails, the creatures were spotted in Miami-Dade County in 2011, the first evidence of this current infestation. Since then, Florida officials have worked to capture and contain them, keeping a tally of kills.

As of Friday, 156,253 snails had been killed, captured or found dead, a department official said. The department said 27 neighborhoods in Miami-Dade and one in next-door Broward County were being treated following snail detections.

So far, state officials said, they’re making progress in defeating the snails, which are known to consume at least 500 types of plants. They’re illegal to import into the United States without a permit, and state officials are unsure how the outbreak in 2011 began. Their damage extends beyond plants: They can cause structural damage to buildings, by consuming plaster and stucco to acquire the calcium needed to grow their large shells.

“We find them more dead than alive now,” said Mark Fagan, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “We feel we are absolutely going to achieve eradication.”

The snails are getting close to agricultural areas but haven’t yet damaged crops, Fagan said.

“We have been able to stop it in its tracks before it crosses over,” he said. “Without the possible movement by man, these snails are not going to get across U.S. 1.”

Among the strategies Florida officials are using, aided by federal dollars: “detector dog teams.” The specialized dogs are trained to find giant African land snails; they know to bypass snails native to Florida that don’t pose the same problems. Florida’s detector dogs are Labrador retrievers named Sierra and Bear.

While the number of snails caught each week is tiny now compared with what it once was, the state can’t declare eradication until two years after the last snail is collected.

Osama El-Lissy, deputy administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture program that oversees the invasive species programs, said funding was up substantially in recent years and was projected to increase again in fiscal 2018.

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Lice Remedy Proves Fatal

Lice Remedy Proves Fatal

After her family attempted a home remedy to cure head lice, a one year old infant died in Springfield, Massachusetts. According to MassLive reports, a spokesman for the Springfield Police said the matter is being investigated by detectives and that no charges have been filed. Police discovered the girl had suffocated after relatives spread mayonnaise on her hair and scalp and placed a plastic shopping bag over her head. Several hours passed during which time the girl was left unattended. When the family discovered she was not breathing, they called the police. A small boy in the house also had head lice. The family shaved his head. All of the children have been removed from the house, a police spokesman said, and are in the care of relatives.

I order to adequately cure head lice, most doctors recommend over-the-counter treatments. Nix or Rid are well now and effective for eliminating head lice. These treatments are widely available at local pharmacies. In some cases, prescription treatments may be used. These treatments are considered effective and safe and cause no skin irritation or rash. However, when a family can not afford available treatments they often resort to home remedies.

Some common home remedies include the mayonnaise treatment. The idea is to smother the lice. Some remedies also use peanut butter or olive oil. Once the agent is applied, the head is wrapped with plastic wrap. A shower cap is recommended for children because it is safest.

Other home remedies include using a combination of essential oils and combing. The most effective oil is tea tree oil, though lavender oil, neem oil, clove oil, and eucalyptus oil are also quite good. According to Healthline, mixing 15 to 20 drops of the selected essential oil with either 2 ounces of olive oil or 4 ounces of rubbing alcohol should be applied to scalp and hair and left for at least 12 hours.


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Bedbug Issues

Bedbug Issues

Lambs Farm, an organization in Illinois that provides housing for men and women with developmental disabilities and vocational, residential, recreational and social programs, has been responding to a bedbug problem.


In September, Bedbugs were discovered in one of the group homes on the Green Oaks complex near the Tri-State Tollway. Now the bugs have resurfaced in several group homes. Authorities from the Illinois Department of Public Health were made aware of the situation at Lambs Farm and inspected the facilities

“We found the facility indeed was responding to it appropriately,” said Melaney Arnold, a spokeswoman for the agency. According to spokeswoman Leslie Piotrowski, the Lake County Health Department does not have any “regulatory control” over bedbugs because they do not transmit disease. “The health department tries to assist by providing information and resources to help anyone who wants to eliminate or control bedbugs.” Piotrowski added that, “complaints received by the health department typically concern apartment buildings, hotels or motels.”

Bedbugs are not a medical or public health hazard, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are not known to spread disease. Bedbugs are parasitic insects of the cimicid family. They feed on blood. It is referred to as a bed bug because it prefers to feed on humans while they sleep. Some negative health effects may result from bed bug bites. This can include skin rashes, psychological effects, and allergic reactions. Certain signs and symptoms often suggest the presence of bed bugs, but finding the actual insects is the only way to confirm the diagnosis.

Adult bed bugs are light to reddish-brown in color. They are a flattened, oval-shape and have no hind wings. Their front wings are vestigial and reduced to pad-like structures. Bed bugs have segmented abdomens with microscopic hairs. Adults grow from 0.16–0.20 inches long and 0.059–0.118 inches wide.



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Ants and the Environment

Over the years there has been discussion among scientists as to how much environment influences how an organism will behave, adapt or look. And while many scientist point to genes as the most important determining factor, Canadian scientists have recently increased the size of experimental ants by unlocking the mystery of how an animal’s environment affects how large they will become.

“It’s kind of making big news,” said Ehab Abouheif of McGill University’s evolutionary and developmental biology lab. Abouheif is also co-author of a paper published in Nature Communications.

Abouheif and other researchers observed ant colonies and asked the question; why are some ants of the same species large and others small? They found that their size seemed to depend on how much a single gene known as EGFR had been “coated” by a chemical process called methylation.

According to Abouheif, 70 percent of size differences between ants could be explained by how heavily methylated the gene was. The researchers turned the process around by manipulating the methylation of that one gene. They were able to grow ants twice as large as a normal ant.


“We used to think that traits like size that fall along a continuum were controlled by many, many, many genes, each having a small role, with the environment having a smoothing-out role,” said Abouheif. “What we’ve found is something quite fundamental . By putting a coat on a single gene, you can generate that whole continuum in size. You get this chemical coating on the gene that modifies the way the gene works. You don’t need any changes in the gene.”

Since methylation is influenced by outside factors such as food intake, Abouheif and his colleagues have not only defined exactly how environment works to control characteristics such as size, they’ve quantified the strength of that influence.

“What the food is doing is affecting these chemical modifications. What we’re showing is that genes and the environment are equal in their power to generate these continuous traits.


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Termite Wars?!

Termite Wars

As many of us dread another visit by the exterminator to zap those blasted termites, most of us thank to popular pest control commercials perceive the battle to be between exterminator and pest. Well, when it comes to serious battles with lots of drama, termite vs. termite is far more interesting and educational.

In fact a new study on termites may have the answer for an evolutionary question posed by Charles Darwin nearly 150 years ago: How does natural selection support insect “worker” and “soldier” offspring who never reproduce, find mates or start their own colonies?

“This question about the evolution of social behavior among insects really intrigued me,” said lead researcher and University of Maryland evolutionary biologist Barbara Thorne, who has spent nearly 30 years pursuing the answer.

Basically, natural selection argues that small biological changes yield greater chances of survival and successful reproduction. However, that notion or process does hold water with regard to the evolution of social insects, especially when they live in colonies consisting of over a million non-reproductive members. Apparently, the answer may be because the workers and soldiers stay home.

“Social insects are extremely successful and dominant in many different habitats all over the world, yet we don’t understand how this thriving but complex colony structure evolved. It’s why I got involved in these studies when I was a young graduate student,” Thorne said.

Her team’s research shows that when two neighboring termite families within the same log meet, they battle, often leading to the deaths of one or both families’ kings and queens. This paves the way for replacement “junior” kings and queens to develop from either or both colonies’ worker offspring. In other words, sterile termites can become reproducers when their parents are killed becoming the main progenitors for the colony.

“These findings demonstrate how ecological factors could have promoted the evolution of social organization by accelerating and enhancing direct fitness opportunities of helper offspring, rendering relatedness favoring kin selection less critical,” Thorne said.

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