I couldn’t help it - here are some more jeweled caterpillars
I just posted about a particularly awesome jeweled caterpillar, but I had to have some more. The above caterpillars were photographed by Dan Janzen (except for the turquoise one). One question you may ask is, what is the purpose of the gummy spikes? There is some evidence that they make it harder for the larvae to be eaten, since ants placed in the same container as the caterpillars find their mouths gummed up. Here’s more from the SciAm blog Observations:
Biologists do have some ideas about the function of larvae’s gumdrop spines, however. The glutinous cones break off extremely easily—one can gently tweeze them off or even pull them off by accident—suggestive of the way some lizards’ tails snap off in a predator’s mouth. Janzen says this trick might help the larvae escape from hungry insects and birds, but researchers have not yet confirmed this.
Awesome jeweled caterpillar becomes even more awesome moth
If you’re not floored by the fact that the orange moth on the right literally started its life with the body of the even more bizarre caterpillar on the left, then you’re a lost cause for Science.
The moth/caterpillar is the species Acraga coa. It’s from the family Dalceridae, and a google image search shows just how cool all of its cousins look. In fact, I might just post a few more pictures later…
Two baby Fisher’s chameleons
Don’t judge me. It’s science, okay!?
Scientists discover gene for binge drinking
(Disclaimer: the above image did not accompany the scientific paper).
Scientists believe some people have a gene that hard-wires them for binge drinking by boosting levels of a happy brain chemical triggered by alcohol.
The gene - RASGRF-2 - is one of many already suggested to be linked with problem drinking, PNAS journal reports.
The King’s College London team found animals lacking the gene had far less desire for alcohol than those with it.
Brain scans of 663 teenage boys showed those with a version of the gene had heightened dopamine responses in tests.
During a task designed to make them anticipate a reward, these 14-year-old boys had more activity in a part of the brain called the ventral striatum which is known to be involved in dopamine release.
When the researchers later contacted the same boys at the age of 16 and asked them about their drinking habits, they found the boys with the ‘culprit’ variation on the RASGRF-2 gene drank more frequently.
Igor Siwanowicz’s stunning macro photography
I know I’ve featured some of Igor’s work here before on the blog, but as you can see, it always bears repeating. Here is a sample of some of his coolest shots of mantuses (manti? mantopi?). Be sure to check out the full gallery.
China to flatten 700 mountains to build new desert metropolis
This doesn’t sound like a good idea…
A long, long time ago, a 90-year-old Chinese peasant named Yu Gong decided to move two inconveniently located mountains away from the entrance to his home. Legend has it he struggled terribly, but ultimately succeeded. Hence the Chinese idiom “Yu Gong moves the mountains.” When there’s a will, there’s a way.
Now Chinese developers are putting old Yu to shame.
In what is being billed as the largest “mountain-moving project” in Chinese history, one of China's biggest construction firms will spend £2.2bn to flatten 700 mountains around Lanzhou, allowing development authorities to build a new metropolis on the northwestern city's far-flung outskirts.
If you’re concerned about the environmental impact, don’t be: it’s all but assured to be disastrous. That’s because the WHO has already named Lanzhou as China’s worst city for air pollution. The city also chronically lacks water, even before the new construction takes place.
The View from the International Space Station
Star trails, city lights, and lightning strikes appear in this composite of a series of images photographed from a mounted camera on the International Space Station, from approximately 240 miles above Earth. Expedition 31 Flight Engineer (and photographer) Don Pettit: “My star trail images are made by taking a time exposure of about 10 to 15 minutes. However, with modern digital cameras, 30 seconds is about the longest exposure possible, due to electronic detector noise effectively snowing out the image. To achieve the longer exposures I do what many amateur astronomers do. I take multiple 30-second exposures, then ‘stack’ them using imaging software, thus producing the longer exposure.” A total of 18 images photographed by the astronaut-monitored stationary camera were combined to create this composite.
Saturn’s stormy and geometrical north pole
Nasa’s Cassini spacecraft captured the top image of a storm over Saturn’s northern ‘polar hexagon.’ Why is it called a hexagon, you may ask? Because the second photo, also captured by Cassini shows that’s exactly what it looks like. It turns out that the hexagon isn’t a geographic feature of the planet, but is instead a weather phenomenon that has puzzled scientists since the 1980’s. The latest hypothesis is that fluid dynamics, combined just so with the speed of Saturn’s rotation and orbit, could be the cause of the hexagon.
(Source: The Atlantic)