Friday, February 18, 2011
Species: L. polyphemus
The Atlantic horseshoe crab lives primarily in shallow ocean waters on soft, sandy, or muddy bottoms. They do, however, come ashore for mating in the late spring, and they spend their winters on the continental shelf. There are four species of horseshoe crab and are the only remaining members of the order Xiphosura, one of the oldest classes of marine arthropods. Despite their name, they are actually not crabs, but are related to arachnids (e.g. spiders, scorpions, ticks, and mites). The name “limulus” means “askew” and “polyphemus” refers to the one-eyed giant in Greek mythology.
The Atlantic horseshoe crab has three parts to its body: the prosoma (the anterior region), the opisthosoma (the abdominal region) and the telson, a spine-like tail. They have a hard outer shell (an exoskeleton), 5 pairs of jointed legs (the first four are used for walking, while the last pair are located near the gills and are used for pushing. They also have a pair of pincers. They can grow up to 2 feet long and weigh up to 10 pounds. The horseshoe crab sheds its skin as it matures. The male horseshoe crab is smaller than the female; being two-thirds the female’s size. The horseshoe crab has two pairs of eyes; the first pair is compound, and the other pair is simple.
Form and Function
Horseshoe crabs are scavengers and feed on molluscs, worms, crustaceans, and small fish. They obtain their food by using chelicerae, which are feeding appendages which are jointed and sometimes will have claws. The chelicerae are used to push food into the mouth while mandibles cut or grasp the food. The food passes from the mouth into the esophagus then into a crop and a gizzard that grind the food, before finally passing into the stomach and intestine and ends in the anus which is located ventrally in front of the telson. Behind the horseshoe crab legs, they have book gills, which exchange respiratory gases and can sometimes be used for swimming. One interesting thing about horseshoe crabs is that they have no hemoglobin in their blood, and instead must rely on hemocyanin to carry oxygen. Because of the copper found in the hemocyanin, their blood is blue. Their blood contains cells called amebocytes, which are similar to white blood cells in humans. The horseshoe crabs protects itself against predators with its hard shell covering, and its spiked tail (the telson) is used as a rudder, so say the crab finds itself flipped upside down, it can bend it abdomen at the point where it meets the main shell, and can dig into the sand (the tail serving as an anchor) while it turns itself over. To reproduce, horseshoe crabs come ashore to shallow coastal waters. The male finds a female and clings onto her back. The female will then dig a hole in sand, lay her eggs, and the male will fertilize them. The eggs (if they survive the wrath of the many hungry shore birds) take two weeks to hatch. The horseshoe crab excretes waste through an anus located on the ventral side near the telson.
Impact on Humanity
Horseshoe crabs are frequently used as bait for eel and conch fishing, especially in the USA. It is important to conserve the horseshoe crab and prevent their endangerment because of the time it takes for them to reach sexual maturity, which is not reached for 9 to 12 years, and their eggs are a very important part of the food web, as they are sources of nutrition for many shore bird communities. Horseshoe crabs are also used in the biomedical and pharmaceutical industries. Horseshoe crabs have blue blood that clots when exposed to endotoxins (a dangerous class of chemicals). This clotting feature serves as an important alarm system to pharmaceutical companies which need to test the sterility of fluids intended for use on human patients.
Journal Article Review
The article discusses how the decline in the numbers of horseshoe crabs could signify climate change. While most people attribute the decrease in the horseshoe crab population to overharvesting for fishing bait, new research suggests that climate change also plays a role in modifying the numbers of horseshoe crabs. The decline in horseshoe crabs draws parallels to climate change experienced near the end of the last ice age. The decrease in horseshoe crabs could impose serious problems for nearby wildlife that feed on their eggs, such as Atlantic loggerhead sea turtles.
"Climate Change Implicated in Decline of Horseshoe Crabs." Welcome to the USGS - U.S. Geological Survey. Web. 17 Feb. 2011.
"Horseshoe Crab." Assateague Animals and Plants. Web. 17 Feb. 2011.
"Horseshoe Crab." Enchanted Learning. Web.
"Horseshoe Crab." Wikipedia. Web. 17 Feb. 2011.
"Limulus Polyphemus." Smithsonian Marine Station (SMS) at Fort Pierce. Web. 17 Feb. 2011.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
By Dylan Burchett
Species: M. stellatarum
The Humming bird Hawkmoth is a species of moth most known for its resemblance in both physical appearance and lifestyle to the hummingbird. This remarkable resemblance is often theorized to be a result of convergent evolution, meaning that it is a great example of two unrelated lineages that have acquired the same biological trait(s). The Hummingbird Hawkmoth is found through much of Europe and Asia, where it flourishes in the summertime and in warmer climates. The Hummingbird Hawkmoth will fly in day or night, rain or shine which is unusual for moths in general. The Hummingbird Hawkmoth has also shown to have a good ability to learn colors, and has shown to have a good memory, often returning to the same flowerbeds at the same time of day in repetition.
Adult Hummingbird Hawkmoths are brown and black on their forewings and black and orange on their hindwings. Their wingspan is 40-45 millimeters and their wings beat fast enough to give off a hum, much like the humming bird.
Form and Function
Hummingbird Hawkmoths feed on the nectar of various plants with their proboscis and are able to hover near the flowers they wish to feed from for long periods of time. Hummingbird Hawkmoths reproduce in pairs by internal fertalization, their courtship can often be seen near large cliffs, buildings, or large areas of open ground. Once a female’s ova have been fertilized, the female feeds and then searches for a proper patch of Galium aparine to deposit its ova on, depositing up to 200 ova at a time. The eggs look similar to the flower buds of the host plant, and will hatch 6-8 days after being deposited. Once the eggs are hatched, a larval stage begins, which lasts about 20 days. The larva will feed on the host plant until becoming pupae. Once maturing is complete, the Hummingbird Hawkmoth will leave its cocoon and come out into the world.
Impact on Humanity
I would assume that the Hummingbird Hawkmoth has some affect on flower pollination, be it the actual transference of pollen, or the prevention of other animals from utilizing their flowers for pollination.
Journal Article Review
This is a journal article about the study of color learning in the Hummingbird Hawkmoth. In this study, a dual-choice situation was created in which two different colored flowers were presented, one giving a reward and the other not. In the study, the Hummingbird Hawkmoth was shown to learn to not only visit the rewarded color, but to avoid the unrewarded color.
Phylum: Arthropoda (image 1)
Earwigs make up the order Dermaptera, which translates into skin wings. They are a smaller insect order with only 1,800 species in 12 families. They are found throughout North and South America, Eurasia, Australia, and New Zealand. They are nocturnal and undergo around 5 molts per year (which is about their life span). Many earwigs are epizoic and some show signs of maternal care, which is very uncommon for insects.
(image 2 & 3)
Most earwigs’ bodies are flattened and flexible abdomens to help them fit into tight crevices. They normally grow between 7-50 millimeters and are characterized by the pincers on their abdomen. The males have curved pincers and the females have straight ones. They fold their wings under their pincers which they rarely use to fly. The epizoic species do not have wings.
III. Form and Function:
Earwigs use their pincers to obtain their food and to protect themselves. They are normally scavengers but can also be omnivores and predators. They are one of the few insects that actually hunt for their food. They prey on arthropods, plants, and ripe fruit. They are eaten by birds, lizards, centipedes, and spiders.
Earwigs are hemimetabolous, which means they go through incomplete metamorphosis. After the male and female mate, the sperm sometimes remains in the female for months before the eggs are fertilized. The female then begins to lay about 80 white eggs in 2 days. The babies hatch within 7 days. The mother will warm, clean, and defend the eggs until they hatch. The parasitic earwigs give birth to live babies. The mother takes care of the babies until their second molting.
IV.Impact on the World/Humanity:
They do not transmit any diseases to humans or any animals. An urban legend says that they crawl into human ears and lay eggs in the brain….finding them in a human ear is very uncommon.
They are helpful and harmful to crops. They eat the insects that infest the crops yet also eat the crops themselves.
V. Journal Article review:
This journal article is about the urban legend of earwigs crawling into peoples ears and causing them to go deaf and experience pain. This article is saying how it’s a false myth and that earwigs do not harm people.
images 1,2,3,5- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earwigs
images 4- http://agspsrv34.agric.wa.gov.au/ento/pestweb/Images/earwig1.gif
By Zachary Kaye
l Phylum: Annelida
l Class: Polychaete
l Order: Eunicida
l Genus: Eunis
l Species: Eunice Aphriditois
The Bobbit Worm (Eunice Aphriditois) is a marine polychaete that lives in depths of around 30 feet. It is a menacing predator and is also known as the Eunice Worm. It is a very rare polychaete and can only be found in select locations. It has only been found in Police Pier & Nudie Retreat in Lembeh, Indonesia, Basura, Phillipines, and Secret Bay, Bali, Indonesia. However, other members of the Eunis family can be found throughout regions of the Pacific Ocean, usually warmer waters.
The main body of the Bobbit Worm is a shell with approximately 29 legs on each side depending on the length of the animal.
It has 5 antennas on the top of its head that it uses to sense objects and to feed.
On the end of each antenna are sensory receptors.
It has a two piece jaw used for consuming its prey.
They have a pair of eyes; however they are not very useful.
Form and Function:
Bobbit Worms burrow into the ground, which is usually sandy sentiment. They wait there most of the time unless food is scarce, in which they will scout out for food. When prey swims or crawls nearby, the Bobbit Worm senses it with its sensory receptors on each of its antennae, and lashes out, ambushing and eating its prey. It has been known to attack so quickly that it slices the animal in half. It will then pull it into its mouth, where its sharp teeth tear up the prey and prepare it for digestion. Even though they do have eyes, they do not help much in regards to feeding. Some species of Eunice have bristles on their body that are capable of stinging humans and leaving them with permanent numbness.
Bobbit Worms are called broadcast spawners, which means that the male and female shoot their sperm and eggs into the water. The egg and sperm meet and the egg are fertilized and soon start to grow. There is no copulation or formal mating as the males and females never actually touch each other. Only a select amount of Bobbit Worms look after their young after they are born, and even these species do so minimally. Some also produce egg cocoons; however will not even feed their young. Reproduction occurs when the worm is usually around 3 inches long. This means that they are very young when they reproduce, saying that they can live to be up to three meters long.
Impact on the World:
Unfortunately, Bobbit Worms do not have an impact on humanity. This is most likely because of the lack of knowledge of these animals. The only slight impact would be controlling the population of animals that they feed off of.
A four foot “sea monster” had been destroying coral at the Newquay Aquarium, located in the UK. Workers had been curious as to what had been destroying all the coral. Not being able to find out what it was they dismantled the whole aquarium space rock by rock. While doing so they discovered Barry, the four foot-long Bobbit Worm. Not only was this one of the longest Bobbit Worms ever found, but it was one of the species that contained the bristles capable of leaving permanent numbness. Studies are being done on the bristles and how exactly they work.
Bombardier beetles are a form of ground beetles, also known as Carabidae. There are over 500 species of them, and they all have an extremely unique defense mechanism. When frightened, the make a popping sound and then eject a spray of chemical toxins which can reach up to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. They are also capable of aiming their defense glands which can rotate 270 degrees very accurately. Bombardier beetles live every continent except Antartica and Asia. They are usually found in woodlands in tropical areas, but can be found in most places that are moist where they can lay their eggs. They are carnivorous, and usually hunt at night. They eat other insects, and sometimes other beetles.
The chemical that bombardier beetles eject is a combination of two chemical compounds, hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide. Inside the insect, there are two chambers, containing each chemical separated. When threatened, however, it contracts muscles which force the two chemicals into a mixing chamber in the abdomen which contains water and a mixture of catalytic enzymes. When they are mixed, they form a chemical reaction which heats it to the boiling point of water. Because of the pressure from the boiling, the valves from the storage chamber close, which protects the internal organs. Then, the liquid becomes a gas because of Flash Evaporation. Flash evaporation is when a vapor comes from a liquid when it undergoes a reduction in pressure and passes through a valve. The liquid is shot out through a valve, creating a loud popping sound and frightens and burns the predator.
Like most beetles, bombardier beetles mate to reproduce sexually. They have four life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. They are usually found in woodlands in tropical areas, but can be found in most places that are moist where they can lay their eggs. They are carnivorous, and usually hunt at night. They eat other insects, and sometimes other beetles.
Impact on World/Humanity:
Bombardier beetles do not affect humans economically or in any other direct way, however they can cause damage if you get sprayed by one. The main way that they affect people is through the debate of creation versus evolution. Their origin is a comon dispute among scientists.
Nature Friend magazine
This article talks about how the Bombardier Beetle came into existence. Dr. Schildknecht, a German chemist, states that the bombardier beetle is far too complex to have simply evolved. Because of the fact that two chemicals can be contained in separate chambers and then mixed at just the right time, without blowing the beetle up, and containing the right enzymes, is far too complex to have happened by chance or natural selection.
Species: P. imperator
The Emperor Scorpion is a species of scorpion native to Africa. The emperor is one of the largest species of scorpion in the world, with adults averaging about 8 inches in length.Their life span usually ranges from 5–8 years when held in captivity, but it is shorter in the wild. The emperor's size, relatively low toxicity, and life span make it the most popular scorpion in the pet trade. This has led to such over-collecting in the wild that it is now a CITES listed animal which means that it is threatened with extinction.
Their anatomy consists of a Cephalothorax, Mesosoma, and Metasoma.
The cephalothorax is theprosoma, which is the scorpion's "head", containing the carapace, eyes, chelirae, which are the mouth parts, pedipalps, which are the claws or pinchers, and four pairs of walking legs. Scorpions have two eyes on the top of their heads, and usually two to five pairs of eyes along the front corners of their heads.The pedipalp is a segmented, clawed appendage used for prey immobilization, defense, and sensory purposes.
The abdomen, also called the opisthoma, consists of seven segments.The first abdominal segment bears a pair of genital parts which cover the gonopore. The second segment consists of the basal plate with the pectines. Segments from three to seven have a pair of spiracles which are openings for the scorpions respiratory organs.
The metasoma, the scorpion's tail, comprises six segments. The last containing the scorpion's anus and bearing the telson which is the sting. The telson consists of the vesicles which holds a pair of venom glands, and the hypodermic aculeus which is the venom-injecting barb.
- Form and Function
In the wild, emperor scorpions feed mostly on termites. In captivity they usually feed on crickets, cockroaches, and mealworms. Emperor scorpions are also known to eat small mice and lizards. Emperor scorpions are burrowing scorpions, digging with the first two pairs of legs. A burrow may be little more than a hollow under a rock or may twist and turn more than six feet into the earth. In the wild, emperors burrow into Termite mounds and make their homes there.
They are preyed on by reptiles, mammals and amphibians.
Like most scorpions, Emperors are very timid. They spend most of their time hiding only coming out when they need to hunt. If the emperor feel threatened it will run but if it feels cornered it will enter its threat posture. When threat posturing, the scorpion turns to face its enemy while holding their claws up and open, and arching their tail and stinger over their back. If it continues to feel threatened it will either pinch or sting. Their sting feels like a bee sting and doesn’t really have that big of an effect on humans.
Emperors give live birth to their young. Fertilization can last 9 to 18 months depending on temperature and food availability, when an average of 12 young are born. Scorplings are born very vulnerable and unable to fend for themselves. The mother emperor cares for her babies by fiercely defending them and killing prey for them. The young emperors ride on the mother's back when very small. As they molt and grow, they will leave their mother's back, explore the world and attempt to hunt. If they stay too long, she will start to kill her young. For a few months the scorplings will return to their mother's back when frightened, until eventually they make burrows of their own and become independent.
IV. Impact on Humanity
Scorpions are feared for being venomous and deadly. Because of this, some people have avoided interaction with them all together. Scorpions are venomous, but the sting of most scorpions only causes swelling and pain. There are documented cases of deaths caused by scorpions, and in these cases the victims are often children and the elderly.
- Journal Article Review
In the Journal article I read, scorpions had invaded the Eagle Trace Apartments in Las Vegas. One woman said that she had captured 15 to 20 scorpions crawling around her apartment. She said she spotted at least another 30 in the apartment she used to live in upstairs. For a lot of people scorpions are a big pest and they are having problems getting them to leave.
Scorpions plague las vegas apartment complex . (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.8newsnow.com/story/14038656/scorpions-plague-las-vegas-apartment-complex
Scorpion human interaction. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.orkin.com/stinging-pests/scorpions/scorpion-human-interaction
Scorpion. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scorpion
Emperor scorpion. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emperor_scorpion
Basic anatomy of a scorpion. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://web.singnet.com.sg/~chuaeecc/anat/anat1.htm
Emperor scorpion. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://animal-world.com/encyclo/reptiles/scorpions/EmperorScorpion.php
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
The Monarch butterfly has a wingspan that ranges from 3.5-4 in. Their wings are a yellow-ish orange and the outside lining and veining is black with two repeated white dots along the outside of the wing. The male butterfly is slightly larger than the female and they also have a black patch of androconial scales on the hind wings. They have six legs, but only four are used because the front two are carried against their body. As an adult, the butterflies have a tube-like proboscis which serves as a “tongue” to drink nectar. The body is composed of three parts; the head, the thorax, and the abdomen. A single creamy white/ yellow egg weighs about .46 mg and is about 1.2mm long. The caterpillar has yellow, black, and white stripes and will reach a size of 2 in.
Excretion is important to the butterfly for the same reason it is important to other animals, to remove unwanted substances. Excretion is a way of assuring that the levels of salt and water in the haemolymph, or the blood of the butterfly, remain consistant. Toxic compounds are produced during metabolism and excretion is a way to cleanse the system. The Monarchs use a system of tubes called Malpighian tubules, which are found throughout their bodies. The job of these tubules is to pick up materials from the haemolymph and carry them to the rectum of the butterfly. The unnecessary or harmful materials are released in a liquid form.
The reproduction cycle of a Monarch butterfly begins with a mating period that begins in the spring before the migration from winter states. Courtship is separated into two different stages, the aerial and ground phases. During the aerial phase the male pursues, nudges, and then essentially takes down the female. During the ground phase, copulation occurs. The male and female remain attached for up to 60 minutes. A spermatophore is transferred into the female. The speratophore also supplies the female with energy which helps her in carrying out the reproduction process while migrating. The life cycle includes a complete change of form called metamorphosis. First the female lays the eggs during spring and summer. Second, the eggs hatch after four days, and caterpillars are revealed! They feed on their casings then on milkweed with the intention to store fat for energy which will carry them through their non-feeding pupa stage. They remain a caterpillar for only about two weeks before entering the next stage. The third stage they enter is pupa or chrysalis stage. The caterpillar spins a silk sac on a stick or leaf and hangs from the silk pad. It hangs upside down and eventually molts but leaving itself encased in a green exoskeleton. Hormonal changes then occur which is the next step to becoming a butterfly. The fourth and final stage includes the butterfly emerging from the chrysalis where it must stay for a few hours until its wings are dry. During this waiting period, fluid is pumped through the weak wings to assure that they are stable, after this the butterfly flutters its wings and feeds on milkweed and other plants.
The best protection the butterfly has are their ancestors! The Monarch is a poisonous butterfly that first gets its poison, cardenolide glycosides, when it is a caterpillar after eating the milkweed plant. Predators, mostly birds like Jays and Orioles, become very sick from the poison and remember the bright orange color of the butterfly and avoid all Monarchs in the future!
This article is about a research team in the United States that researched the ability of the Monarch butterfly to use medicinal plants to fight a parasite. They have found that some species of milkweed, the Monarchs main food source, can reduce parasite infection. They also found that females lay their eggs on plants that will make their offspring less sick, which proves that they have evolved the ability to medicate their offspring. The fact that butterflies can use plants for medicinal purposes, give scientists hope that there could be cures for humans in plants as well.
Monarchs (butterfly. Wikipedia. Retrieved February 16, 2011, from
Oberhauser, K. (n.d.). Anatomy/characteristics of monarchs. Retrieved from
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Species: S. viridis
Sphodromantis viridis, more commonly known as the African Mantis, is a popular pet. Females can reach up to 3.9 inches in length (see figure 2). The males tend to be much smaller due to sexual dimorphism. The African Mantis can be anywhere from bright green to a dull cream brown. As their name implies, they are native to Africa, especially West Africa. The species has also been introduced to Israel and Spain. Their habitat consists of dense foliage and warm weather.
Figure 3. As you can see here this is a female African Mantis noted by the six segmented abdomen
Figure 4. This is a male African Mantis because of its eight segmented thorax.
The African Mantis can be identified by its size and by a white spot on their wings. They also have a yellow tint on their inner foreleg which is unique to their species. As mentioned earlier, the females tend to be larger than the males. Another way to distinguish males from females is that the males have an eight segmented abdomen compared to the females’ six segmented abdomen (see figure 3 and 4).
III. FORM AND FUNCTION
The African Mantis has a wide ranged diet. It can consume crickets, moths, locusts, and even baby mice. The African Mantids are aggressive in nature and hey will eat anything their size. They are ambush predators and use their raptorial legs to capture prey. These raptorial legs are spiked forelegs which can easily grasp and hold prey. The front of the thorax, the prothorax, is much more flexible than the rest of the body. The head is also flexible; it is able to turn up to 300 degrees. African Mantids have good vision and use their compound eyes to sight prey (see figure 5).
Digestion is extracellular. The food enters the mouth and passes through the gut and out the anus.
Figure 5. A closer look at the compound eye.
Mating season usually begins in autumn. It is best if the male find a female who isn’t hungry because sexual cannibalism does occur. The male will sometimes engage the female in an elaborate courtship dance in order to increase his chances of survival with a potential mate. If the male succeeds then he deposits his sperm in a special chamber in the female’s abdomen. Within a few days the female will lay 10 to 400 eggs in an ootheca (see figure 6). An ootheca is a protective shell around the eggs. The female begins by laying a foamy mass that contains her eggs. The mass hardens and protects the eggs and babies inside. However some predators are still able to find and eat the oothecas. The African Mantids life span can range anywhere from ten to twelve months.
Figure 6. The ootheca of an African Mantis
African Mantids mainly use camouflage as defense. The mantis easily blends into the foliage around it. They also blend in by moving repetitively side to side to resemble branches swaying in the wind.
If the mantis is threatened, it fans its wings out in order to appear larger (figure 7).
Figure 7. This picture is an example of the reaction of a threatened African Mantis.
The African Mantis has many predators. This includes lizards, owls, small mammals, and snakes.
IV. IMPACT ON WORLD/HUMANITY
Mantids are used for pest control. There are farms throughout the U.S. that buy batches of mantid nymphs in order to keep bad insects away from their crops.
Mantids are featured in many movies and there is even a Pokémon named Scyther that is modeled off of the mantis (figure 8).
Figure 8. Scyther from Pokemon
V. JOURNAL ARTICLE REVIEW
This journal article is about a photographer named Igor Siwanowicz who photographs and studies the mantis. He states that mantids are clever and can communicate by gesturing to each other (see figure 9). Siwanowicz is fascinated by mantids and has decided to release a book that is dedicated and about the mantis.
Figure 9. This is a picture taken from the journal article. It displays the 'communication' between mantids.