Fruit flies can feel pain, new research


This December 2014 video from England says about itself:

Drosophila: Small fly, BIG impact – Part 1 (Why the fly?)

A film about the history and importance of the fruit fly Drosophila as a model organism in biomedical research.

From the University of Sydney in Australia:

Insects feel persistent pain after injury, evidence suggests

July 12, 2019

Scientists have known insects experience something like pain since 2003, but new research published today from Associate Professor Greg Neely and colleagues at the University of Sydney proves for the first time that insects also experience chronic pain that lasts long after an initial injury has healed.

The study in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances offers the first genetic evidence of what causes chronic pain in Drosophila (fruit flies) and there is good evidence that similar changes also drive chronic pain in humans. Ongoing research into these mechanisms could lead to the development of treatments that, for the first time, target the cause and not just the symptoms of chronic pain.

“If we can develop drugs or new stem cell therapies that can target and repair the underlying cause, instead of the symptoms, this might help a lot of people,” said Associate Professor Neely, whose team of researchers is studying pain at the Charles Perkins Centre with the goal of developing non-opioid solutions for pain management.

Pain and insects

“People don’t really think of insects as feeling any kind of pain,” said Associate Professor Neely. “But it’s already been shown in lots of different invertebrate animals that they can sense and avoid dangerous stimuli that we perceive as painful. In non-humans, we call this sense ‘nociception’, the sense that detects potentially harmful stimuli like heat, cold, or physical injury, but for simplicity we can refer to what insects experience as ‘pain’.”

“So we knew that insects could sense ‘pain’, but what we didn’t know is that an injury could lead to long lasting hypersensitivity to normally non-painful stimuli in a similar way to human patients’ experiences.”

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is defined as persistent pain that continues after the original injury has healed. It comes in two forms: inflammatory pain and neuropathic pain.

The study of fruit flies looked at neuropathic ‘pain’, which occurs after damage to the nervous system and, in humans, is usually described as a burning or shooting pain. Neuropathic pain can occur in human conditions such as sciatica, a pinched nerve, spinal cord injuries, postherpetic neuralgia (shingles), diabetic neuropathy, cancer bone pain, and in accidental injuries.

Testing pain in fruit flies

In the study, Associate Professor Neely and lead author Dr Thang Khuong from the University’s Charles Perkins Centre, damaged a nerve in one leg of the fly. The injury was then allowed to fully heal. After the injury healed, they found the fly’s other legs had become hypersensitive. “After the animal is hurt once badly, they are hypersensitive and try to protect themselves for the rest of their lives,” said Associate Professor Neely. “That’s kind of cool and intuitive.”

Next, the team genetically dissected exactly how that works.

“The fly is receiving ‘pain’ messages from its body that then go through sensory neurons to the ventral nerve cord, the fly’s version of our spinal cord. In this nerve cord are inhibitory neurons that act like a ‘gate’ to allow or block pain perception based on the context,” Associate Professor Neely said. “After the injury, the injured nerve dumps all its cargo in the nerve cord and kills all the brakes, forever. Then the rest of the animal doesn’t have brakes on its ‘pain’. The ‘pain’ threshold changes and now they are hypervigilant.”

“Animals need to lose the ‘pain’ brakes to survive in dangerous situations but when humans lose those brakes it makes our lives miserable. We need to get the brakes back to live a comfortable and non-painful existence.”

In humans, chronic pain is presumed to develop through either peripheral sensitisation or central disinhibition, said Associate Professor Neely. “From our unbiased genomic dissection of neuropathic ‘pain’ in the fly, all our data points to central disinhibition as the critical and underlying cause for chronic neuropathic pain.”

“Importantly now we know the critical step causing neuropathic ‘pain’ in flies, mice and probably humans, is the loss of the pain brakes in the central nervous system, we are focused on making new stem cell therapies or drugs that target the underlying cause and stop pain for good.”

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New fly species gets Game of Thrones name


This 1 July 2019 video says about itself:

Night King: Australia bee fly named after Game of Thrones villain

A new species of bee fly in Australia has been named after Game of Thrones villain the Night King.

Paramonovius nightking was given its name because it thrives in winter, has a crown of spine-like hairs and turns other insects into “zombies”, researchers said.

It is about 1cm long (0.3 inches) and can be found during the winter in a small area of Western Australia.

Some 230 new wildlife species have been named in Australia in the past year.

Paramonovius nightking was originally discovered in 2012 by a pair of “citizen scientists” in Wandoo National Park. Years later, Xuankun Li, a PhD student at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), confirmed that it was a new species.

CSIRO entomologist Dr Bryan Lessard said the decision to name the species after the villain from the hit HBO series came easily.

“Xuankun is a huge Game of Thrones fan, and wanted to thank the show for the hours of entertainment it’s given him,” he told the BBC.

“The bee fly has many similarities with the Game of Thrones character; they both are only found in winter and have a crown of thorn-like spines on their head. Female bee flies lay their eggs on other insects, which hatch and eat that insect from the inside out, turning them into walking zombies, just like the real Night King.”

“If it’s happened on a sci-fi or fantasy show, chances are that nature has done it first,” Dr Lessard added.

Paramonovius nightking is part of a group of flies that look like bees. Scientists believe they have developed this way to avoid being eaten by birds, which know that bees sting.

There are more than 5,200 known species of bee flies around the world, but Dr Lessard says there are likely to be “many more” that are currently undocumented.

New wasp species discovery in Tibet


This 2017 video from France says about itself:

Microplitis retentus (Papp, 1984)(Hymenoptera : Ichneumonoidea : Braconidae) parasitizes a caterpillar of the Orange Tip, Anthocharis cardamines (Linnaeus, 1758) (Pieridae: Pierinae: Anthocharini)

This 5 mm long wasp parasitizes young caterpillars of the Orange Tip. Using its ovipositor, it injects a single egg in its victim. The parasitoid larva develops inside its host (endoparasitoid) where it lives off the haemolymph, without preventing the host’s growth. When the caterpillar becomes about 15 mm long it climbs high up on the food-plant, and after some time the parasitoid larva erupts above the 2nd and 3rd abdominal prolegs, and then it immediately spins a cocoon next to the caterpillar, which remains alive for a few days. After about 10 days the adult wasp bites a clean circular lid from the end of the cocoon, most of the time at the underside of its cocoon, allowing it to emerge.

In the rearing shown here, the wasp emerged from its cocoon quite rapidly, and there is then a further generation, overwintering in the cocoon. However, it may be more usual for there to be only one generation, with harder and darker cocoons that withstand not only the rest of the summer but also the winter.

Remarks and identification Dr. Mark R. Shaw

And now, relatives of this parasitic wasp species, discovered dar from France.

From ScienceDaily:

Two new species of parasitic wasps described from an altitude of over 3,400 m in Tibet

Date: July 3, 2019

Summary: Specimens kept in the collection of the Institute of Beneficial Insects at the Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University (China) revealed the existence of two previously unknown species of endoparasitic wasps. Looking very similar to each other, yet clearly distinct from species in other wasp genera, both have once been collected from prairies and bushes in high-altitude areas in Tibet, China.

Specimens kept in the collection of the Institute of Beneficial Insects at the Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University (FAFU, China) revealed the existence of two previously unknown species of endoparasitoid wasps. Originally collected in 2013, the insects are known to inhabit prairies and bushes at above 3,400 m, which is quite an unusual altitude for this group of wasps.

The new to science wasps are described and illustrated in a paper published in the open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal ZooKeys by the team of Dr Wangzhen Zhang (FAFU and Fuzhou Airport Inspection and Quarantine Bureau) and his colleagues at FAFU: Dr Dongbao Song and Prof Jiahua Chen.

Looking very similar to each other, the species were found to belong to one and the same genus (Microplitis), which, however, is clearly distinct from any other within the subfamily, called Microgastrinae. The latter group comprises tiny, mostly black or brown wasps that develop in the larvae of specific moths or butterflies. Interestingly, once parasitised, the host continues living and does not even terminate its own growth. It is only killed when the wasp eggs hatch and feed on its organs and body fluids before spinning cocoons.

From now on, the newly described wasps will be called by the scientific names Microplitis paizhensis and Microplitis bomiensis, where their species names refer to the localities from where they were originally collected: Paizhen town and Bomi county, respectively.

Due to their parasitism, some microgastrine wasps are considered important pest biocontrol agents. Unfortunately, the hosts of the newly described species remain unknown.

In addition, the scientists also mention a third new to science species spotted amongst the specimens they studied. However, so far they have only found its male, whereas a reliable description of a new microgastrine wasp requires the presence of a female.

Rare pink grasshopper, photo


Pink grasshopper

This photo, by 1968Tj from the Netherlands, shows a grasshopper which officially should have been green, but is pink.

That colour condition is called erythrism. It occurs rarely, also in, eg, rabbits, snakes, frogs and birds’ eggs.

It is a bit similar to melanism making a ‘grey’ seal a black seal.

Or to a supposedly black blackbird being white or whitish because of albinism or leucism.

How beewolves preserve food


This August 2018 video says about itself:

This is the European Beewolf (Philanthus triangulum triangulum) a large solitary species of wasp while feeding on pollen & nectar as adults. The grubs require an insect-based diet. Constructing tunnels up to 1m deep. These tunnels have at least 3 and up to 34 side tunnels with a brood cell at the end. These contain between 1-5 paralysed bees collected by the female and in here she will lay an egg per chamber and after hatching the grubs will feed on the living bees.

From the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Germany:

Beewolves use a gas to preserve food

European beewolf eggs produce nitric oxide which prevents the larvae’s food from getting moldy

June 11, 2019

Summary: Scientists have discovered that the eggs of the European beewolf produce nitric oxide. The gas prevents the larvae’s food from getting moldy in the warm and humid brood cells.

Food stored in warm and humid conditions gets moldy very quickly und thus becomes inedible or even toxic. To prevent this, we use refrigerators and freezers as well as various other methods of preservation. Animals do not have such technical appliances and therefore need to find other ways to preserve food. The European beewolf Philanthus triangulum, a solitary wasp species whose females hunt honey bees, has evolved a successful method of food preservation. A female takes up to five honey bees into its brood cells where they serve as food for a young beewolf. Female beewolves prefer to build their nests in sunlit and sandy places. The nests are deep and therefore the brood cells are warm and humid. Such conditions are favorable for the development of the beewolf larvae; however, they also foster the growth of mold fungi. As a matter of fact, bees stored under such conditions in the lab were overgrown by mold within one to three days. Surprisingly, the mold risk for bees was much lower in the nests of beewolves, so that most beewolf larvae were able to finish their eight to ten-day development until they spin a cocoon.

Researchers from the University of Regensburg and the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz (previously at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena) have discovered an amazing mechanism that the beewolves have evolved in order to make sure that their larvae’s food does not get moldy. “Shortly after oviposition, the brood cells of beewolves smell strikingly like ‘swimming pool’. This smell comes from the egg itself,” explains Prof. Dr. Erhard Strohm, the leader and main author of the study. Bioassays showed that beewolf eggs emit a gas that efficiently kills mold fungi. A chemical analysis revealed the surprising result that the gas is nitric oxide (NO). The eggs produce nitric oxide in large quantities and release it to the air where is reacts with atmospheric oxygen to nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The measured NO2 concentrations in the brood cells exceed both the occupational exposure limits of NO and NO2 as well as the EU maximum permissible values in cities.

Both NO and NO2 are very reactive and have a strong oxidizing effect. Therefore it is not surprising that high concentrations of the gases kill mold fungi. But how can beewolf eggs synthesize such amounts of NO? The scientists hypothesize that the fact that NO plays an extremely important role in many biochemical processes in almost all organisms from bacteria to mammals is a crucial precondition for the evolution of these mechanisms. In low doses and due to its high diffusion and reactivity, NO functions as a signal molecule and is, for example, involved in the adjustment of blood pressure and in developmental processes. Higher concentrations are used by many animals as an immune response to kill pathogens. Although beewolf eggs produce enormous amounts of NO, they use the same enzymes, NO synthases, which are also used by other organisms. Also, the responsible NO synthase gene in beewolves does not have any special characteristics. However, the researchers found a modification in the translation of the gene into the protein, which may be responsible for the unusually high synthesis rate of NO in beewolf eggs. “Due to so-called alternative splicing the enzyme in the beewolf eggs lacks a segment which may be responsible for regulation. This may have led to the significant increase in enzyme activity,” says Dr. Tobias Engl, the second main author of the publication.

The use of a reactive gas to control mold on food supplies has improved survival of beewolf offspring considerably and represents an evolutionary key invention. This novel defense mechanism against microorganisms is a fascinating example of how existing processes are modified in the course of evolution in such a way that completely new functions are generated. The discovery of NO as a key defense component against mold fungi increases the spectrum of natural antimicrobial strategies and adds a surprising and intriguing facet to our understanding of this biologically important molecule

The most amazing aspect of the defense strategy of beewolf eggs is the fact that the eggs are obviously able to survive the extremely toxic conditions they produce themselves. Which mechanism the eggs deploy is the subject of current investigations. The results may not only be interesting for basic research, but also for possible applications in human medicine. A harmful overproduction of NO may also be the result of certain diseases or acute infections. The mechanisms that beewolf eggs use to protect themselves from NO may help to find new therapeutic approaches.

Mexican fireflies’ mating dance, video


This 10 June 2019 video says about itself:

Every year, hundreds of thousands of fireflies begin their mating dance in the pine forests of Mexico. Filmmaker Blake Congdon captured this incredible phenomenon as never before seen.