Golden orb spider video


This video from the USA says about itself:

10 February 2018
Golden Orb spiders are known for the impressive webs they weave — producing silk five times stronger than steel and more flexible than cotton.

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Jellyfish attracts small animals


This video says about itself:

This Jellyfish Contains an Ecosystem | Nat Geo Wild

4 February 2018

Many species of amphipods need to live upon jellyfish for at least some of their lives.

Carnivorous plants avoiding eating pollinating insects


This video says about itself:

Venus fly trap – The Private Life of Plants – David Attenborough – BBC

9 February 2007

David Attenborough looks at how this well known carnivorous plant captures its prey.

By Sarah Zielinski, 7:00am, February 6, 2018:

Pollinators are usually safe from a Venus flytrap

Out of the hundreds of species of carnivorous plants found across the planet, none attract quite as much fascination as the Venus flytrap. The plants are native to just a small section of North Carolina and South Carolina, but these tiny plants can now be found around the world. They’re a favorite among gardeners, who grow them in homes and greenhouses.

Scientists, too, have long been intrigued by the plants and have extensively studied the famous trap. But far less is known about the flower that blooms on a stalk 15 to 35 centimeters above — including what pollinates that flower.

“The rest of the plant is so incredibly cool that most folks don’t get past looking at the active trap leaves”, says Clyde Sorenson, an entomologist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Plus, notes Sorenson’s NCSU colleague Elsa Youngsteadt, an insect ecologist, because flytraps are native to just a small part of North and South Carolina, field studies can be difficult. And most people who raise flytraps cut off the flowers so the plant can put more energy into making traps.

Sorenson and Youngsteadt realized that the mystery of flytrap pollination was sitting almost literally in their backyard. So they and their colleagues set out to solve it. They collected flytrap flower visitors and prey from three sites in Pender County, North Carolina, on four days in May and June 2016, being careful not to damage the plants.

“This is one of the prettiest places where you could work”, Youngsteadt says. Venus flytraps are habitat specialists, found only in certain spots of longleaf pine savannas in the Carolinas. “They need plenty of sunlight but like their feet to be wet,” says Sorenson. In May and June, the spots of savanna where the flytraps grow are “just delightful” he says. And other carnivorous plants can be found there, too, including pitcher plants and sundews.

The researchers brought their finds back to the lab for identification. They also cataloged what kind of pollen was on flower visitors, and how much.

Nearly 100 species of arthropods visited the flowers, the team reports February 5 in American Naturalist. “The diversity of visitors on those flowers was surprising”, says Youngsteadt. However, only three species — a sweat bee and two beetles — appeared to be the most important, as they were either the most frequent visitors or carriers of the most pollen.

The study also found little overlap between pollinators and prey. Only 13 species were found both in a trap and on a flower, and of the nine potential pollinators in that group, none were found in high numbers.

For a carnivorous plant, “you don’t want to eat your pollinators”, Sorenson says. Flytraps appear to be doing a good job at that.

There are three ways that a plant can keep those groups separate, the researchers note. Flowers and traps could exist at different times of the year. However, that’s not the case with Venus flytraps. The plants produce the two structures at separate times, but traps stick around and are active during plant flowering.

Another possibility is the spatial separation of the two structures. Pollinators tend to be fliers while prey were more often crawling arthropods, such as spiders and ants. This matches up with the high flowers and low traps. But the researchers would like to do some experiments that manipulate the heights of the structures to see just how much that separation matters, Youngsteadt says.

The third option is that different scents or colors produced by flowers and traps might lure in different species to each structure. That’s another area for future study, Youngsteadt says. While attraction to scent and color are well documented for traps, little is now known about those factors for the flowers.

Venus flytraps are considered vulnerable to extinction, threatened by humans, Sorenson notes. The plant’s habitat is being destroyed as the population of the Carolinas grows. What is left of the habitat is being degraded as fires are suppressed (fires help clear vegetation and keep sunlight shining on the flytraps). And people steal flytraps from the wild by the thousands.

While research into their pollinators won’t help with any of those threats, it could aid in future conservation efforts. “Anything we can do to better understand how this plant reproduces will be of use down the road,” Sorenson says.

But what really excites the scientists is that they discovered something new so close to home. “One of the most thrilling parts of all this”, Sorenson says, “is that this plant has been known to science for [so long], everyone knows it, but there’s still a whole lot of things to discover.”

Photographing honey bees, video


This video says about itself:

1 February 2018

National Geographic asked photographer Anand Varma to work on a story about honey bees. What he came up with is a work of art.

New parasitoid wasp species discovered in Costa Rica


The new parasitoid wasp species, Dendrocerus scutellaris. Credit: Carolyn Trietsch

From ScienceDaily:

New parasitoid wasp likely uses unique saw-like spines to break out of its host body

January 31, 2018

Summary: A newly discovered parasitoid wasp species from Costa Rica might be only slightly larger than a sesame seed, yet it has quite vicious ways when it comes to its life as an insect developing inside the body of another. Most likely, it uses its unique saw-like row of spines on its back to cut its way out of its host.

About the size of a sesame seed, a new species of wasp from Costa Rica, named Dendrocerus scutellaris, has elaborate branched antennae that could be used for finding mates. Or hosts.

The new insect is described by PhD candidate Carolyn Trietsch, Dr. István Mikó and Dr. Andrew Deans of the Frost Entomological Museum at Penn State, USA, together with Dr. David Notton of the Natural History Museum in London, UK. Their study is published in the open access Biodiversity Data Journal.

The wasp is a parasitoid, meaning that its larvae feed on a live host insect. There are two types of parasitoids: ectoparasitoids, which lay their eggs on or near the host, so that the hatchling larvae can attach to and feed on the insect from the outside; and endoparasitoids, which lay their eggs directly inside the host, so that the larvae can eat them from the inside out.

Unfortunately, to puzzle out the new wasp’s lifestyle, the researchers could only rely on specimens collected back in 1985, which had spent the past few decades stored in the collections of the Natural History Museum of London before being loaned to the Frost Museum at Penn State for research.

What can you learn about a wasp’s lifestyle from specimens that are over 30 years old? Even though the new species has never been observed in the wild, researchers managed to learn a lot by looking at the wasps’ morphology, concluding that the species is likely an endoparasitoid.

The larva of an endoparasitoid wasp needs a safe place to develop and mature, so when it is done feeding on its host, it may stay inside the host’s body where it can develop undisturbed. Once it is fully grown, the adult wasp either chews or pushes its way out, killing the host if it isn’t already dead.

Unlike its close relatives, the new species does not have pointed mandibles for chewing. Instead, it has a series of spines along its back. While the wasp is emerging, it may rub these spines against the host and use them like a saw to cut open the body. Once emerged, it flies off to mate and continue the cycle.

“While their lives may sound gruesome, parasitoid wasps are harmless to humans and can even be helpful,” explain the scientists. “Depending on the host they parasitize, parasitoids can benefit agriculture by controlling pest insects like aphids that damage crops.”

It is currently unknown what the new species feeds upon, but naming the species and bringing it to attention is the first step in learning more about it.

Colourful millipede discovery in Virginia, USA


These are Apheloria polychroma colourmorphs. Credit: Virginia Tech

From Virginia Tech in the USA:

Entomologist discovers millipede that comes in more color combinations than any other

January 26, 2018

The new millipede that Paul Marek discovered is as pretty as it is dangerous.

The thumb-sized millipede that crawls around the forest floor of Southwest Virginia’s Cumberland Mountains has more color combinations than any other millipede discovered.

Apheloria polychroma, as the millipede is known, also has an enviable trait in the animal world — it’s covered in cyanide, ensuring any bird that snacks on the colorful but lethal invertebrate won’t do it a second time. Lots of other millipedes that don’t have as much toxic defense mimic Apheloria polychroma’s coloring in hopes of avoiding becoming another link in the food chain.

This is the 10th species that Marek, an assistant professor in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences‘ Department of Entomology, has discovered and named in recent years. Apheloria polychroma was named for its rainbow of colors and was described by Marek; Jackson Means, a graduate student from Keswick, Virginia; and Derek Hennen, a graduate student from Little Hocking, Ohio. Marek runs the only millipede lab in the United States.

The team’s findings were recently published in the journal Zootaxa.

While Marek’s work is focused on small things, his research helps tell the larger story of the quickly changing natural world. By documenting the many living organisms of the planet, he is helping avoid anonymous extinction — a process in which a species goes extinct before its existence, role in the ecosystem, or potential benefit to humanity is known.

“It is imperative to describe and catalog these species so that we know what role they play in the ecosystem — and what impact we are having on them,” said Marek. “This region is ripe with biodiversity and is an excellent living laboratory to do this work.”

The millipedes that copy Apheloria polychroma use what is called Mullerian mimicry, where different species converge on a shared aposematic (warning signal) to defend themselves against a common predator. The more frequently predators encounter what appears to be the same brightly colored unpalatable millipede and memorize its warning colors, the better the collective advertisement of their noxiousness.

In addition to the millipede‘s colorful exoskeleton, it also serves an important role in the ecosystem as a decomposer by breaking down decaying leaves, wood, and other vegetation to unlock and recycle their nutrients for future generations of forest life.

In recent years, Marek also has had a tarantula named for him, explored the origins of bioluminescence, and discovered the leggiest creature on Earth.

Crab fights coral-eating starfish


This video, recorded in Australia, says about itself:

This Crab Doesn’t Take Kindly to Home Intruders

23 jan. 2018

The crown-of-thorns starfish eats coral reefs; coral reefs happen to be the home of the guard crab. This puts these two tenacious aquatic creatures on a direct collision course.

From the series: David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef