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Question of the week As the only invertebrate organism with the ability to fly what are the evolutionary advantages of insects exhibiting flight behavior Viewing Guide for the Video Life in the Undergrowth Taking to the Air Mayflies Why do male mayflies have to mate within the 1st 30 minutes of adult life Why do females mayflies fly upstream after mating Dragonflies and Damselflies What behavior do adult dragonflies exhibit to fill wings How is the perching behavior of dragonflies and damselflies different What visual clue does the female damselfly initially give the male to show her willingness to consider mating After male gives full display how does a female show she is not yet ready to mate Male cascade damselfly must find the perfect breeding territory The vertical rock surface must be covered with right amount of water What happens if the water is too deep What happens if the water is too shallow Helicopter Damselflies of Costa Rica males visit sunlit patches and fly in a special flight pattern to invite females what is this flying called Cabbage White Butterflies What danger does the damaging of cabbage plants bring to young feeding caterpillars Why does the caterpillar produce a silken thread Taiwan Butterflies What behavior do butterflies exhibit in the mornings when they go to the forest canopies that save their fat reserves What 2 things does a newly emerged butterfly have to do with its mouthparts to prepare for adult feeding Why are vivid patterns and bright colors not used by most moths compared to many brightly colored butterflies Lantern Bugs Lantern bugs have an unusual way of getting rid of excess sugar to prevent ant attacks What is it Describe the relationship between one species of moth and lantern bugs with regards to feeding Queen Bumble Bees To compete with other insects that like to feed on spring flowers how does the queen bumble bee warm their bodies early in the morning without wasting energy Flies Why must dance flies perform their visual displays perfectly What must male hoverfly do to lay claim to a mating territory Why does the make take a break midday Beetles Why do Titan beetles have powerful legs Cicadas Why do male cicadas chorus Why does a male cicada follow you if you snap your fingers Does the male cicada vocalization change once he spots a willing female Ethology The study of behavior Behavior is the way in which an insect adjusts to and interacts with its environment Instinct or Innate behaviors Behavior performed appropriately the very first time Advantages include no experience is required save time in neural design obvious advantages with anti predator defenses obvious advantages with matingcourtship Often found in shortlived solitary species no one to teach Just like physical traits innate behaviors are phylogenetic adaptations that have an evolutionary history Innate behavior is controversial in vertebrate behavioral studies but has been easily accepted in insect studies Innate behavior is genetically programmed Individuals inherit a suite of behaviors often called an ethogram just as they inherit physical traits such as body color and wing venation In general innate behaviors will always be Heritable encoded in DNA and passed from generation to generation Intrinsic present in animals raised in isolation from others Stereotypic performed in the same way each time by each individual In exible not modified by development or experience Consummate fully developed or expressed at first performance U PP Ni Just because an insect39s behavior is innate does not necessarily mean it is simple Over time natural selection can lead to surprisingly intricate and sophisticated behavior such as the dance language of honey bees or the courtship rituals of dance ies These behaviors may appear purposeful and intelligent but they are merely the product of millions of years of genetic refinement through natural selection So why is innate behavior so prevalent in the insect world 1 insects have a short lifecycle often about a month 2 limits of small body size 3 complete metamorphosis young and adults are not the same physically FAPs Fixed Action Patterns Species specific motor patterns Once initiated they require few or no external stimuli or additional sensory curs for their maintenance or completion FAPs can be evoked by a variety of stimuli sometimes from different sensory modes and they may show variability in orientation Their intensity completeness and repetition rate may vary However once FAPs are evoked their basic structure is stereotyped Performing one FAP may lead an insect to encounter the releaser for a second PAP and that in turn may lead to the releaser for a third FAP etc This type of behavioral cascade is common in insects l Niko Tinbergen one of the quotfathersquot of modern ethology demonstrated that hunting behavior in a predatory wasp proceeds through a stepwise series of three FAPs The first releaser is visual movement of a prey sized object triggers down wind pursuit of the prey At that point prey odor is a releaser that triggers catching behavior Finally tactile cues from the prey release stinging and egg laying behavior A Bahauiaral Cascade Stimulus 1 scal dar Tactile tram Pray Ftcailanaa rt 1 Pursuit Catching Stl til ti tram Pradatar When a fixed action pattern fulfills or satisfies a physiological drive it may be known as a consummatory act Taking a blood meal for example satisfies a mosquito39s hunger drive Any behavior that increases an individual39s probability of encountering the releaser for a consummatory act is often called an appetitive behavior Thus chirping by a cricket may be regarded as an appetitive behavior because it increases the chances of finding a mate and satisfying the sex drive Some pitfalls of behavior descriptions and observations Anthropomorphism Attributing human characteristics or human attributes urges desires emotions to non human animals to other species Teleology It is a form of anthropomorphism It is a doctrine that the processes of nature are directed toward some discernible quotGoalquot It endows an animal with motivations The outcome of a behavior is not for seen by an insect Human behavior is often goal directed or purposive HOW AND WHY QUESTIONS How Proximate Questions ask how an individual manages to carryout an activity and they ask how mechanisms within an insect operate to make the behavior possible They deal with structural physiological psychological genetic and developmental mechanisms Why Ultimate Questions ask why the animal has evolved the proximate mechanisms that enable it to do certain things They pertain to why mechanisms might exist at all Inheritance is required Individual with uniquevaluable gene characteristic i Physiological mechanisms gt Behavior Psychological mechanisms i Ultimate effects and functions T i Developmental mechanism Solution of ecological problems T i Genes code for change Gene carrying success survives T Contribution of genes to those genes lt surviving to the next generation Remember Some traits may not raise individual fitness A trait though once adaptive is now functioning under conditions that no longer exist A maladaptive behavior is a behavior or trait that is not adaptive it is counterproductive to the individual A nonadaptive behavior is a behavior or trait that is counterproductive to an individual39s survival or reproductive success These might include altruistic behaviors which do not favor kin adoption of unrelated young and being a subordinate in a dominance hierarchy In behavioral ecology an adaptive behavior is a behavior which contributes directly or indirectly to an individual39s survival or reproductive success and is thus subject to the forces of natural selection Examples include favoring kin in altruistic behaviors female selection of the most fit male and defending a territory or harem from rivals Other matters to address Learning modification of a behavior by experience that is enduring or relatively permanent and occurs as a result of experience or practice Memory the capacity to store information is a prerequisite for learning resulting in a linkage between stimulus and response that would not have occurred without previous experience with the stimulus Habituation the gradual lessening of responsiveness to a stimulus as experience finds it is to be harmless or at least unavoidable For example a puff of air on the cerci of a cockroach will cause the animal to scamper away But repeating the same stimulus over and over will lead to a decrease in the response and eventually to no response at all In some insect populations widespread use of sex pheromone will disrupt mating behavior By making everything in the world smell like a virgin female males become habituated to the odor and stop responding to the signal If a female cannot attract a mate she will not produce any offspring Habituation should be distinguished from neural adaption and sensory or motor fatigue which are short term failures in response Habituation a more enduring lack of response is not adaptation or fatigue but rather a mechanism to reduce the instances in which a certain innate releasing mechanism is needlessly activated Associative learning or the ability to form associations between previously meaningless stimuli and reinforcements such as rewards or punishments Honey bees for example learn to associate oral colors and fragrances with the presence of nectar They can be quottrainedquot to collect sugar water from colored dishes on a feeding table If a blue dish with pure water sits next to a yellow dish with sugar water worker bees will quickly learn to associate quotyellowquot with quotfoodquot even if the dishes are moved around When solutions in the two dishes are suddenly swapped sugar to blue and water to yellow the bees will ignore blue and continue to forage at yellow until they eventually quotlearnquot by trial and error to look for the blue dish Latent learning sometimes termed quotexploratory learningquot Bees and wasps learn the location of their nests through landmarks recognized and remembered from previous orientation ights Latent learning differs from associative learning in that it occurs without apparent reinforcement The motivation for latent learning is undefined but by learning the characteristics of it surrounding an insect increases the chances of its own survival Likewise worker ants can remember a series of landmarks along a trail and follow them in reverse order back home to the nest site Honey bees also show latent learning when they follow the waggle dance of a forager and then use that information to find the reported nectar source Three Darwinian Concepts to consider Selection Pressure Selection pressure can be regarded as a force that causes a particular organism to evolve in a certain direction It is not a physical force but an interaction between natural variation in a species and factors in its environment that cause a certain form to have an advantage over the others This can be thought of as a pressure that pushes the evolution of that organism toward a greater prevalence of this variation Adaptations Species adaptation is the way in which organisms change or evolve to meet the needs of their environment These changes typically involve behavior body parts or body coverings Adapting to their habitat is generally geared toward protecting the species from predators finding ways to attract or capture prey and attracting a mate A bodycovering species adaptation like camou age or mimicry usually helps animals hide from prey and predators example a Peppered moth can hide on tree trunks due to coloration Some of the most interesting herbivore adaptations to plant defense are behavioral adaptations host manipulation By eating a plant at a certain time or in a certain season an herbivore can maximize the nutrition it gets while minimizing the presence of undesirable chemicals like tannins Some of the most clever adaptations are host manipulation where the feeder somehow gets the plant to give up its nutrients This is seen both in the case of gallinducing insects and human agriculture Fitness As an example consider an animal which obtains a dark coloring as a result of a mutation If it lives in a dark environment potential predators will have a harder time spotting it than they have spotting its lightercolored mates Over time there will be more and more dark colored animals as the lightcolored ones get eaten more often An organism39s capability to bear healthy offspring is called its fitness an organism that has more offspring survive to a reproductive age has a higher fitness and its genes will spread more This is what39s meant by quotsurvival of the fittestquot More details on rewarding work for butterflies Aug 1 2012 Butterflies learn faster when a flower is rewarding than when it is not and females have the edge over males when it comes to speed of learning with rewards These are the findings of a new study by Dr kuo Kandori and Takafumi Yamaki from Kinki University in Japan Their work published online in Springer39s journal Naturwissenschaften The Science of Nature is the first to investigate and compare the speed at which insects learn from both rewarding and nonrewarding experiences Learning is a fundamental mechanism for adjusting behavior to environmental change In insects there are three main types of learning reward learning where insects develop a positive association between visual andor olfactory cues and resources such as nectar aversive learning where insects associate visual andor olfactory cues with negative stimuli such as salt shock and toxins and nonreward learning where they associate the cues with the absence of rewards To date very few studies have explored nonreward learning in pollinator insects including the butterfly Byasa alcinous In a series of four experiments Kandori and Yamaki examined both the reward nectar present and nonreward no nectar learning abilities of the butterfly while foraging among artificial flowers of different colors They also compared the reward and nonreward learning speeds They found that the butterfly learned to associate flower color not only with the presence of nectar but also with the absence of nectar This demonstrates that the butterfly used both reward and nonreward learning while foraging on the flowers In addition the butterfly learned quicker via reward learning than it did via nonreward learning and females learned faster than males These authors conclude quotByasa alcinous can find rewarding flower species more efficiently via both reward and nonreward learning Insects may initially visit a certain flower by innate preference If this flower is rewarding they quickly increase their focus on that flower species through reward learning If the flower species is unrewarding and common frequent visits to that flower species enhances nonreward learning to avoid that flower species The butterfly can then identify new rewarding flower species with a reduced loss of energy and time if it avoids foraging on such abundant innately attractive but unrewarding flower speciesquot What are the evolutionary advantages benefits and disadvantages costs from the insect s perspective of the ecological relationships insects have with plants Study Guide for Life in the Undergrowth Intimate relations Ants in the Devils Garden Where do the ants attack the grasshopper to get it to move off the plant Name two ways ants prohibit the growth of neighboring but not genetically similar trees in the Peruvian Devils Garden What is the advantage to the plant and what is the advantage to the ants to prohibit the growth of their nearest neighbors Gall Wasps Why do some galls in California oak trees exhibit a jumping behavior for about for three days Why do some Hungarian galls produce honey Insect Pollinators White crab spiders take advantage of the plants advertisements to do what Do the bees see the spiders as we do Are bees more or less attracted to plants with spiders Attracting Ants Feather legged bugs use what two behavior to attract ants close by How does the body position of the bug change once the ants are attracted How do Australian stick insects fool ants into taking their seeds below ground Desert Blister Beetles Nursemaids What behavior do young blister beetles exhibit to find food hint what do the imitate What two foods are they after Brazilian Bot Flies What does the large bot fly do with small house fly Why does it do this What does the temperature of the cow do to bot fly eggs What do the bot flies use to establish themselves on their hosts Orchard Spider and grub After about two weeks of companionship how does the grub change the behavior of the spider and how does it keep from falling Fairy Wasps Fairy Wasps live where Where and on what do they lay their eggs Where do fairy wasps mate Tiger Beetles How do young tiger beetles catch food What happens when a wasp gets caught What behavior does the wasp exhibit to protect its young Alcon Blue butterflies and Ants How do the 4th instar caterpillars get into the ants nest What two behaviors do the Alcon Blue caterpillars exhibit to protect themselves What does the wasp do to get into the ant nest What does the wasp do once it is in the ant nest Ticks that Transmit Lyme Disease Reported in 486 of US Counties January 18 2016 by Entomology Today By Hannah Foster A blacklegged tick Ixodes scapularis Photo by Gary Alpert Harvard University Bugwoodorg The disease is spread to humans by two tick varieties the blacklegged tick Ixodes scapularis which is responsible for most cases of Lyme disease in the United States and the western blacklegged tick Ixodes pacificus the culprit for cases in the western US The number of Lyme disease cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC has tripled over the last 20 years from 10000 to 30000 per year making it the most commonlyreported vectorborne disease in the US In fact researchers estimate that in reality closer to 300000 people are infected each year Lyme disease was previously contained mainly in the Northeast and Upper Midwest but research suggests that its range is expanding One of the first symptoms of Lyme disease that occurs in some people is a rash shaped like a bullseye that forms around the point of the bite However this rash called erythema migrans is not present in all cases and is sometimes overlooked Other early symptoms of Lyme disease are nonspecific and may include fever headache and fatigue all of which can be mistaken for the common u As many as half of the people diagnosed with Lyme disease do not even recall a tick bite Because of this and its lack of unique symptoms the diagnosis of Lyme disease can be very challenging Consequently one of the key factors doctors consider when diagnosing a patient with Lyme disease is whether or not the patient may have come in contact with ticks Unfortunately until researchers at the CDC tackled it the range of blacklegged ticks had not been reevaluated in nearly two decades Dr Rebecca Eisen noticed this paucity of information immediately when she began her research on Lyme disease Eisen is a research biologist at the CDC where she studies vectorborne diseases including plague and Lyme disease Eisen observed that the last comprehensive survey of blacklegged tick distribution was published in 1998 even though the areas of the US affected by Lyme disease are steadily expanding This means that doctors might overlook Lyme disease as a possible diagnosis because they are unaware that their patients could have been bitten by blacklegged ticks In addition people living in and around these newlyaffected areas may not realize the importance of protecting themselves against ticks since previously they had no cause to worry To remedy the situation Eisen and colleagues performed a new survey to establish the current geographic distribution of the blacklegged tick and western blacklegged tick in the US The team used surveillance methods similar to those used in 1998 so that they would be able to accurately judge the degree to which the distribution of these ticks had changed The researchers searched scientific literature for countyspecific reports of tick presence They also contacted other Lyme disease researchers and visited the websites of state health departments which often report tick surveillance data Using the data they gathered they labeled counties as established reported or no records Counties reporting six or more individual ticks or ticks of at least two of the three hostseeking life stages larva nymph or adult were classi ed as established Counties that did not qualify as established but had reported at least one tick were classi ed as reported A county labeled no records does not necessarily mean that there aren t any ticks in the county but merely indicates that there were no records of tick reports The map on top is from 1998 and the one below it is from 2015 Red indicates a county where I scapularis is established and blue indicates that it has been reported Green indicates a county where I pacificus is established and yellow indicates that is has been reported Eisen s results were published in the Journal of Medical Entomology In brief Eisen and colleagues found that the blacklegged tick has been reported in more then 45 of US counties compared to 30 of counties in 1998 Even more alarming the blacklegged tick is now considered established in twice the number of counties as in 1998 Interestingly more of the geographic expansion of the blacklegged tick appears to be in the North with populations in southern states remaining relatively stable In contrast the range of the western blacklegged tick only increased from 34 to 36 of counties According to Eisen This study shows that the distribution of Lyme disease vectors has changed substantially over the last nearly two decades and highlights areas where risk for human exposure to ticks has changed during that time You might be wondering if this apparent expansion of the blacklegged tick distribution is simply due to improvements in tick surveillance However the CDC s new data correlate well with the geographical spread of reported Lyme disease w Moreover Eisen s conclusions are supported by data from areas with very rigorous surveillance methods both in the 1990 s and today Eisen s study did not look into biological or ecological explanations for the observed tick distribution changes According to one theory the blacklegged tick was once prevalent across much of the Eastern US and the current trends may be due to the blacklegged tick recolonizing its previous territory This recolonization may be facilitated by reforestation efforts and the increase in the number of whitetailed deer the primary host for the blacklegged tick Eisen is quick to acknowledge that much work remains to be done to truly establish epidemiological trends The observed range expansion of the ticks highlights a need for continuing and enhancing vector surveillance efforts particularly along the leading edges of range expansion she said One major hindrance to better understanding tick distribution is the fact that tick surveillance in counties and states is profoundly variable State health departments have no standardized method of acquiring tick distribution data some states have routine sites for drag sampling while others gather information from reports from veterinarians or ordinary citizens Thus information is very accurate in some areas while in others it is spotty or lacking completely More comprehensive surveillance is necessary to accurately determine the distribution of ticks and to predict the areas they may inhabit in the future Importantly with better surveillance researchers can also assess the distribution abundance and prevalence of B burgdorferi in ticks Eisen s new survey is a start towards providing valuable current information for doctors who treat patients with tick bites If you find that you are now in a region inhabited by the blacklegged tick the best way to prevent Lyme disease it to protect yourself from tick bites When you are heading out to prime tick habitat such as woods or fields here are a few simple precautions you can take 0 Wear long sleeves and long pants 0 Use an insect repellent with 2030 DEET o Bathe or shower shortly after you come inside 0 Check yourself pets and gear that traveled with you for hitchhiking ticks For more information on Lyme disease and how best to protect yourself check out the CDC s website Zika Virus Genome Sequence Published by the Institut Pasteur Entomology Today ABOUT FEATURED ARTICLES SUBSCRIBE Subscribe amp receive new posts by email Enter your email a SUBSCRIBE l ESA NEWS ESA Statement on the Importance of Insect Collections MacMegged TkksFoundin HaHofUS Coundes Backyard Chickens Harbor Ticks Mites and Lice Three New Chigger Mite Spedes Discovered in ThaHand Mites Can Provide Clues to Forensic Entomologists OTHER INSECT BLOGS Beedesinthe Bush Biodiversity in Focus Bug Eric Bugs of Popo Agie Bugwitch Blog Charismatic Minifauna Entomological Society of Canada INSECTS IN THE NEWS ENTOMOLOGY NEWS ESA WEBSITE JOBS Zika Virus Genome Sequence Published by the Institut Pasteur January 12 2016 by Entomology Today 1 Comment Photo by Alexander Wild wwwalexanderwildcom Described for the first time in Uganda in 1947 Zika is an arbovirus belonging to the same family as dengue and yellow fever These viral diseases are transmitted by mosquitoes in the Aedesgenus like the yellowfever mosquito Aedes aegypz l and the Asian tiger mosquito A edes abopcz us The first cases were confirmed in Brazil in May 2015 and the country is currently experiencing the largest epidemic ever recorded with 440000 to 1300000 suspected cases reported by the Brazilian health authorities The Zika virus has spread quickly affecting 10 countries in the tropical regions of the Americas as well as the Caribbean Until recently the infection was considered relatively harmless but in Brazil and other countries they have noticed a very significant increase in the number of microcephaly cases in fetuses whose mothers were infected during pregnancy According to the Mayo Clinic Microcephaly mykrohSEFuhlee is a rare neurological condition in which an infant39s head is significantly smaller than the heads of other children of the same age and sex Sometimes detected at birth microcephaly usually is the result of the brain developing abnormally in the womb or not growing as it should after birth Now the Institut Pasteur in French Guiana has sequenced the complete genome of the Zika virus and has published it in The Lancet Until now few complete sequences of this virus and none of the strains currently circulating in South and Central America were available said Dominique Rousset one of the coauthors This complete sequence of the virus is a major starting point for shedding light on how its behavior develops Page 1 of 3 Search this website TWEETS FROM ESA Tweets FOI IOW V JustinTalley 1h A jtalleyosul EntsocAmerica Be careful not to associate tick distribution with actual cases ie Oklahoma and Arkansas pictwittercom8ijKcz7nr Retweeted by Entomology Society Show Photo ICE2016Orlando 1h ICE2016Orando ICE 2016 Travel Awards for Grad Students and Early Professionals Apply by March 1 2016 entsocorgice 2016 trave Retweeted by Entomology Society Expand Entomology Society 1h H 39 EntsocAmerica quotSummit of the Americas on the Aedes ANA4I uh Iquot 4 AAHLVAI 4L7II 4n A n N Be the first of your friends to like this w Bit l mlntemartienm G 39 i l EM iM i 39 Grimm Flandeus a September 2553 BMWIQ Sharing insect SETEHEE Shae fly 0 Follow httpentomologytodayorg201601 12zikaVirusgenomesequencepublishedbytheinst 1202016 What advantages and disadvantages do social insects insects that live in groups such as bees have over insects that live out their lives as individuals Bees Tales from the Hive Video Study Guide What is the job of the drones in a colony Does the queen stay in the hive to mate How do males recognize the queen How long does the queen live How many eggs are laid in a year What chemical communication is used to prevent other bees from laying eggs What gender are workers Are there more females or males in a hive What gender is helped from their cells and fed What anatomical feature lets you identify a male and why does he have this feature How do grubs become queens How do workers protect the queen outside the colony What do the bees do to make the new hive official and help stragglers find the new hive to make the new hive official and help stragglers find the new hive What is the major ingredient that do workers make the comb out of What does the Death s Head Hawk Moth do to warm up What two behaviors or deceptions does the Death s Head Hawk Moth use to get into the bee hive without being attacked What behavior do bees exhibit when it rains and they don t make it back to the hive Can bees y in the rain How does the mouse use the rain to make it into the hive think temp effect on insect behavior Bee eater birds love to eat bees hundreds of bees especially when sitting on a nest How are they able to catch and eat bees without being injured two ways How does the hornet get by the bee colony guards How many miles can a bee travel for nectar What is the piping call and who makes it What call does the second queen make 9 For bees Home is where the is Aphids tap the trees to make honey dew What do the wood ants do to get the aphids to release honey dew What do some bees bring in from outside to cool the hive What happens to drones that don t mate with the queen How the Namib Desert beetle could help stop frost on airplanes I A Namib Desert beetle helped scientists unlock the key to preventing or slowing frost The solution is the latest in a growing trend of nature inspired technology By Corey Fedde Staff January 23 2MB A desert beetle taught scientists how to prevent frost on airplanes coils and Windshields A team of scientists with the Virginia Polytechnic Institute Virginia Tech has discovered a method for controlling and preventing frost according to a study published in Scientific Reports an online journal run by Nature The method works around the combination of a specific pattern overlaid on top of a water resistant surface The team believes that by scaling up tests the method would be conducive for use on larger commercial objects like airplanes The inspiration for the effective frost prevention method came from an insect that lives in an environment where frost is rarely a problem Scientists based their method off the shell of the beetle The lessons learned from the Namib Desert beetle are the latest in a trend of nature inspired scientific breakthroughs quotI appreciate the irony of how an insect that lives in a hot dry desert inspired us to make a discovery about frostquot said Jonathan Boreyko an assistant professor of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics in the Virginia Tech College of Engineering in the press release for the study quotThe main takeaway from the Desert Beetle is we can control where dew drops growquot The Namib Desert beetle lives in the deserts of southwest Africa where water is scarce The beetle is able to collect airborne water through unique properties on its shell Specialized bumps working in tandem with the shell s smooth surface allows water droplets to form and run to the beetle s mouth according to Modern Reader Scientists viewed the unique patterns of the bumps on the beetle s shell and replicated them onto a silicon wafer a process known as photolithography The chemical pattern attracts water droplets while the surface of the material repels it The result keeps water droplets separated and running which slows or entirely prevents frost from growing The scientists noted their success in the introduction of their study Here we demonstrate that chemical patterns can be used to tune the spatial distribution of supercooled condensation and subsequently control the geometry and speed of interdroplet frost growth For the first time interdroplet ice bridging could be completely halted by utilizing sufficiently sparse hydrophilic patterns and by quickly triggering a freezing event near the patterned condensation According to the press release the scientists have successfully tested the method on a surface about a centimeter in size but say it can be scaled up for commercial use quotKeeping things dry requires huge energy expendituresquot said C Patrick Collier a coauthor of the study in the press release quotThat39s why we are paying more attention to ways to control water condensation and freezing It could result in huge cost savingsquot This not the first time the Namib Desert beetle has offered a novel solution to a human problem In 2012 a US startup company based their concept for a selffilling water bottle around the beetle s natural ability to distill water from the air Similar natureinspired solutions can be seen in everyday and future technology In 2009 Qualcomm MEMS Technologies created the first fullcolor ereader screen based on technology inspired by butter y wings according to Livescience In 2011 a team of researchers in Japan created a film to help solar panels capture more energy from the sun that was inspired by moth eyes Recently in 2015 a group of scientists created a new sensor for small drones that was discovered from studying insect eyes The growing trend of natureinspired solution have led to the opening of organizations like the Centre for Bioinspiration in California and the Biomimicry Institute in Montana among others C l l NBD Nano aims to mimic the way a beetle survives in an African desert to create a selffilling water bottle capable of storing up to three litres every hour The insect harvests moisture from the air by first getting it to condense on its back and then storing the water Using a similar approach the firm wants to cover the surface of a bottle with hydrophilic waterattracting and hydrophobic waterrepellent materials Dung beetles look to the stars J OHANNESBURG Jan 25 2013 Reuters A species of South African dung beetle has been shown to use the Milky Way to navigate making it the only known animal that turns to the galactic spray of stars across the night sky for direction Researchers have known for several years that the inch long insects use the sun or moon as fixed points to ensure they keep rolling dung balls in a straight line the quickest way of getting away from other beetles at the dung heap But scientists have puzzled over how the beetles which perform an orientation dance on top of their dung balls before setting off achieve a straight line on moonless nights To prove the Milky Way theory scientists at J ohannesburg39s Wits University took beetles into the university planetarium to see how they fared with a normal night sky and then one devoid of the Milky Way quotThe dung beetles don39t care which direction they39re going in They just need to get away from the bun fight at the poo pilequot Wits professor Marcus Byrne said quotBut when we turned off the Milky Way the beetles got lostquot And on cloudy nights without a moon or stars quotThey probably just stay at homequot Byrne said Reporting by Ed Cropley editing by Paul Casciato Deborah Gordon The emergent genius of ant colonies httpwwwtedcomtalksdeborah gordon digs ants 00 12 I study ants and that39s because I like to think about how organizations work And in particular how the simple parts of organizations interact to create the behavior of the whole organization So ant colonies are a good example of an organization like that and there are many others The web is one There are many biological systems like that brains cells developing embryos 0041 There are about 10000 species of ants They all live in colonies consisting of one or a few queens and then all the ants you see walking around are sterile female workers And all ant colonies have in common that there39s no central control Nobody tells anybody what to do The queen just lays the eggs There39s no management No ant directs the behavior of any other ant And I try to figure out how that works And I39ve been working for the past 20 years on a population of seedeating ants in southeastern Arizona 01 18 Here39s my study site This is really a picture of ants and the rabbit just happens to be there And these ants are called harvester ants because they eat seeds This is the nest of the mature colony and there39s the nest entrance And they forage maybe for about 20 meters away gather up the seeds and bring them back to the nest and store them And every year I go there and make a map of my study site This is just a road And it39s not very big it39s about 250 meters on one side 400 on the other And every colony has a name which is a number which is painted on a rock And I go there every year and look for all the colonies that were alive the year before and figure out which ones have died and put all the new ones on the map And by doing this I know how old they all are And because of that I39ve been able to study how their behavior changes as the colony gets older and larger 0208 So I want to tell you about the life cycle of a colony Ants never make more ants colonies make more colonies And they do that by each year sending out the reproductives those are the ones with wings on a mating ight So every year on the same day and it39s a mystery exactly how that happens each colony sends out its virgin unmated queens with wings and the males and they all y to a common place And they mate And this shows a recently virgin queen Here39s her wings And she39s in the process of mating with this male and there39s another male on top waiting his turn Often the queens mate more than once And after that the males all die That39s it for them 0254 Laughter 0256 And then the newly mated queens y off somewhere drop their wings dig a hole and go into that hole and start laying eggs And they will live for 15 or 20 years continuing to lay eggs using the sperm from that original mating So the queen goes down in there She lays eggs she feeds the larvae so an ant starts as an egg then it39s a larva She feeds the larvae by regurgitating from her fat reserves Then as soon as the ants the first group of ants emerge they39re larvae Then they39re pupae Then they come out as adult ants They go out they get the food they dig the nest and the queen never comes out again 0336 So this is a oneyearold colony this happens to be 536 There39s the nest entrance there39s a pencil for scale So this is the colony founded by a queen the previous summer This is a three yearold colony There39s the nest entrance there39s a pencil for scale They make a midden a pile of refuse mostly the husks of the seeds that they eat This is a fiveyearold colony This is the nest entrance here39s a pencil for scale This is about as big as they get about a meter across And then this is how colony size and numbers of worker ants changes so this is about 10000 worker ants changes as a function of colony age in years So it starts out with zero ants just the founding queen and it grows to a size of about 10 or 12 thousand ants when the colony is five And it stays that size until the queen dies and there39s nobody to make more ants when she39s about 15 or 20 years old And it39s when they reach this stable size in numbers of ants that they start to reproduce That is to send more winged queens and males to that year39s mating ight And I know how colony size changes as a function of colony age because I39ve dug up colonies of known age and counted all the ants Laughter So that39s not the most fun part of this research although it39s interesting 0503 Laughter 0504 Really the question that I think about with these ants is what I call task allocation That39s not just how is the colony organized but how does it change what it39s doing How is it that the colony manages to adjust the numbers of workers performing each task as conditions change So things happen to an ant colony When it rains in the summer it oods in the desert There39s a lot of damage to the nest and extra ants are needed to clean up that mess When extra food becomes available and this is what everybody knows about picnics then extra ants are allocated to collect the food So with nobody telling anybody what to do how is it that the colony manages to adjust the numbers of workers performing each task And that39s the process that I call task allocation 0550 And in harvester ants I divide the tasks of the ants I see just outside the nest into these four categories where an ant is foraging when it39s out along the foraging trail searching for food or bringing food back The patrollers that39s supposed to be a magnifying glass are an interesting group that go out early in the morning before the foragers are active They somehow choose the direction that the foragers will go and by coming back just by making it back they tell the foragers that it39s safe to go out Then the nest maintenance workers work inside the nest and I wanted to say that the nests look a lot like Bill Lishman39s house That is that there are chambers inside they line the walls of the chambers with moist soil and it dries to a kind of an adobelike surface in it It also looks very similar to some of the cave dwellings of the Hopi people that are in that area And the nest maintenance workers do that inside the nest and then they come out of the nest carrying bits of dry soil in their mandibles So you see the nest maintenance workers come out with a bit of sand put it down turn around and go back in And finally the midden workers put some kind of territorial chemical in the garbage So what you see the midden workers doing is making a pile of refuse On one day it39ll all be here and then the next day they39ll move it over there and then they39ll move it back So that39s what the midden workers do And these four groups are just the ants outside the nest So that39s only about 25 percent of the colony and they39re the oldest ants 0720 So an ant starts out somewhere near the queen And when we dig up nests we find they39re about as deep as the colony is wide so about a meter deep for the big old nests And then there39s another long tunnel and a chamber where we often find the queen after eight hours of hacking away at the rock with pickaxes I don39t think that chamber has evolved because of me and my backhoe and my crew of students with pickaxes but instead because when there39s ooding occasionally the colony has to go down deep So there39s this whole network of chambers The queen39s in there somewhere she just lays eggs There39s the larvae and they consume most of the food And this is true of most ants that the ants you see walking around don39t do much eating They bring it back and feed it to the larvae When the foragers come in with food they just drop it into the upper chamber and other ants come up from below get the food bring it back husk the seeds and pile them up There are nest maintenance workers working throughout the nest And curiously and interestingly it looks as though at any time about half the ants in the colony are just doing nothing So despite what it says in the Bible about you know quotLook to the ant thou sluggardquot in fact you could think of those ants as reserves That is to say if something happened and I39ve never seen anything like this happen but I39ve only been looking for 20 years if something happened they might all come out if they were needed But in fact mostly they39re just hanging around in there 0846 And I think it39s a very interesting question what is there about the way the colony is organized that might give some function to a reserve of ants who are doing nothing And they sort of stand as a buffer in between the ants working deep inside the nest and the ants working outside And if you mark ants that are working outside and dig up a colony you never see them deep down So what39s happening is that the ants work inside the nest when they39re younger They somehow get into this reserve And then eventually they get recruited to join this exterior workforce And once they belong to the ants that work outside they never go back down Now ants most ants including these don39t see very well They have eyes they can distinguish between light and dark but they mostly work by smell So just to reinforce that what you might have thought about ant queens isn39t true you know even if the queen did have the intelligence to send chemical messages through this whole network of chambers to tell the ants outside what to do there is no way that such messages could make it in time to see the shifts in the allocation of workers that we actually see outside the nest So that39s one way that we know the queen isn39t directing the behavior of the colony 1004 So when I first set out to work on task allocation my first question was quotWhat39s the relationship between the ants doing different tasks Does it matter to the foragers what the nest maintenance workers are doing Does it matter to the midden workers what the patrollers are doingquot And I was working in the context of a view of ant colonies in which each ant was somehow dedicated to its task from birth and sort of performed independently of the others knowing its place on the assembly line And instead I wanted to ask quotHow are the different task groups interdependentquot 1037 So I did experiments where I changed one thing So for example I created more work for the nest maintenance workers by putting out a pile of toothpicks near the nest entrance early in the morning when the nest maintenance workers are first active This is what it looks like about 20 minutes later Here it is about 40 minutes later And the nest maintenance workers just take all the toothpicks to the outer edge of the nest mound and leave them there And what I wanted to know was quotOK here39s a situation where extra nest maintenance workers were recruited is this going to have any effect on the workers performing other tasksquot Then we repeated all those experiments with the ants marked So here39s some blue nest maintenance workers And lately we39ve gotten more sophisticated and we have this threecolor system And we can mark them individually so we know which ant is which We started out with model airplane paint and then we found these wonderful little Japanese markers and they work really well And so just to summarize the result well it turns out that yes the different tasks are interdependent So if I change the numbers performing one task it changes the numbers performing another So for example if I make a mess that the nest maintenance workers have to clean up then I see fewer ants out foraging And this was true for all the pairwise combinations of tasks 1149 And the second result which was surprising to a lot of people was that ants actually switch tasks The same ant doesn39t do the same task over and over its whole life So for example if I put out extra food everybody else the midden workers stop doing midden work and go get the food they become foragers The nest maintenance workers become foragers The patrollers become foragers But not every transition is possible And this shows how it works Like Ijust said if there is more food to collect the patrollers the midden workers the nest maintenance workers will all change to forage If there39s more patrolling to do so I created a disturbance so extra patrollers were needed the nest maintenance workers will switch to patrol But if more nest maintenance work is needed for example if I put out a bunch of toothpicks then nobody will ever switch back to nest maintenance they have to get nest maintenance workers from inside the nest So foraging acts as a sink and the ants inside the nest act as a source And finally it looks like each ant is deciding moment to moment whether to be active or not 1252 So for example when there39s extra nest maintenance work to do it39s not that the foragers switch over I know that they don39t do that But the foragers somehow decide not to come out And here was the most intriguing result the task allocation This process changes with colony age and it changes like this When I do these experiments with older colonies so ones that are five years or older they39re much more consistent from one time to another and much more homeostatic The worse things get the more I hassle them the more they act like undisturbed colonies Whereas the young small colonies the twoyearold colonies of just 2000 ants are much more variable And the amazing thing about this is that an ant lives only a year It could be this year or this year So the ants in the older colony that seem to be more stable are not any older than the ants in the younger colony It39s not due to the experience of older wiser ants Instead something about the organization must be changing as the colony gets older And the obvious thing that39s changing is its size 1354 So since I39ve had this result I39ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what kinds of decision rules very simple local probably olfactory chemical rules could an ant could be using since no ant can assess the global situation that would have the outcome that I see these predictable dynamics in who does what task And it would change as the colony gets larger And what I39ve found out is that ants are using a network of antennal contact So anybody who39s ever looked at ants has seen them touch antennae They smell with their antennae When one ant touches another it39s smelling it and it can tell for example whether the other ant is a nest mate because ants cover themselves and each other through grooming with a layer of grease which carries a colonyspecific odor And what we39re learning is that an ant uses the pattern of its antennal contacts the rate at which it meets ants of other tasks in deciding what to do And so what the message is is not any message that they transmit from one ant to another but the pattern The pattern itself is the message And I39ll tell you a little bit more about that 1507 But first you might be wondering how is it that an ant can tell for example I39m a forager I expect to meet another forager every so often But if instead I start to meet a higher number of nest maintenance workers I39m less likely to forage So it has to know the difference between a forager and a nest maintenance worker And we39ve learned that in this species and I suspect in others as well these hydrocarbons this layer of grease on the outside of ants is different as ants perform different tasks And we39ve done experiments that show that that39s because the longer an ant stays outside the more these simple hydrocarbons on its surface change and so they come to smell different by doing different tasks And they can use that taskspecific odor in cuticular hydrocarbons they can use that in their brief antennal contacts to somehow keep track of the rate at which they39re meeting ants of certain tasks And we39ve just recently demonstrated this by putting extract of hydrocarbons on little glass beads and dropping the beads gently down into the nest entrance at the right rate And it turns out that ants will respond to the right rate of contact with a glass bead with hydrocarbon extract on it as they would to contact with real ants 1625 So I want now to show you a bit of film and this will start out first of all showing you the nest entrance So the idea is that ants are coming in and out of the nest entrance They39ve gone out to do different tasks and the rate at which they meet as they come in and out of the nest entrance determines or in uences each ant39s decision about whether to go out and which task to perform This is taken through a fiber optics microscope It39s down inside the nest In the beginning you see the ants just kind of engaging with the fiber optics microscope But the idea is that the ants are in there and each ant is experiencing a certain ow of ants past it a stream of contacts with other ants And the pattern of these interactions determines whether the ant comes back out and what it does when it comes back out You can also see this in the ants just outside the nest entrance like these Each ant then as it comes back in is contacting other ants And the ants that are waiting just inside the nest entrance to decide whether to go out on their next trip are contacting the ants coming in 1740 So what39s interesting about this system is that it39s messy It39s variable It39s noisy And in particular in two ways The first is that the experience of the ant of each ant can39t be very predictable Because the rate at which ants come back depends on all the little things that happen to an ant as it goes out and does its task outside And the second thing is that an ant39s ability to assess this pattern must be very crude because no ant can do any sophisticated counting So we do a lot of simulation and modeling and also experimental work to try to figure out how those two kinds of noise combine to in the aggregate produce the predictable behavior of ant colonies 1830 Again I don39t want to say that this kind of haphazard pattern of interactions produces a factory that works with the precision and efficiency of clockwork In fact if you watch ants at all you end up trying to help them because they never seem to be doing anything exactly the way that you think that they ought to be doing it So it39s not really that out of these haphazard contacts perfection arises But it works pretty well Ants have been around for several hundred million years They cover the earth except for Antarctica Something that they39re doing is clearly successful enough that this pattern of haphazard contacts in the aggregate produces something that allows ants to make a lot more ants And one of the things that we39re studying is how natural selection might be acting now to shape this use of interaction patterns this network of interaction patterns to perhaps increase the foraging efficiency of ant colonies 1933 So the one thing though that I want you to remember about this is that these patterns of interactions are something that you39d expect to be closely connected to colony size The simplest idea is that when an ant is in a small colony and an ant in a large colony can use the same rule like quotI expect to meet another forager every three secondsquot But in a small colony it39s likely to meet fewer foragers just because there are fewer other foragers there to meet So this is the kind of rule that as the colony develops and gets older and larger will produce different behaVior in an old colony and a small young one 20 15 Thank you Questions for the week What are some of the issues in using a celestial body to navigate Study Guide for Marcus Byrne The Dance of the Dung Beetle TedTalks How big is the dung beetle brain What life stages eatlive in dung Where is the dung beetle nest in relationship to the dung pile Most dung beetles wrap the dung into a package of some sort but what percentage of dung beetles makes balls Do the balls stay at the dung source What behavior is a clear indication that dung is a valuable resource Why do they roll the balls away from the dung pile Do dung beetles roll the walking forward or backward Head up or head down Experiments to investigate Does the dung beetle know where it is going IN the experiment where they turned the world under their feet what is their response What do they look at when they climb up on the ball When they shaded the track with a board and then moved the sun with a mirror what did the beetle do What kind of light do they use when the sun sets How do they pick up the celestial cues In the visual and mechanical displacement by 180 degrees what is the reaction of the beetle and what is the transition behavior What do they do when they get on top of the ball Is dung cool or hot relative to the environment Does he dance more or less when in hot arena With boots on do they climb more often What about when the poo has been in the refrigerator Stilting is a method the beetle uses to do what regulate what Pachysoma paths are repeated unlike other species that don t repeat Is the homeward path to provision the nest more direct than the outward path to the dung pile What is he on the outlook for on the outward path Does it use landmarks or path integration Orientation Behavior Some insects and crabs use what system to measure the distance home The dance behavior serves two functions one is orientation what is the other httpwwwtedcomtaksmarcusbyrnethedanceofthedungbeete Dung beetles look to the stars J OHANNESBURG Jan 25 2013 Reuters A species of South African dung beetle has been shown to use the Milky Way to navigate making it the only known animal that turns to the galactic spray of stars across the night sky for direction Researchers have known for several years that the inch long insects use the sun or moon as fixed points to ensure they keep rolling dung balls in a straight line the quickest way of getting away from other beetles at the dung heap But scientists have puzzled over how the beetles which perform an orientation dance on top of their dung balls before setting off achieve a straight line on moonless nights To prove the Milky Way theory scientists at J ohannesburg39s Wits University took beetles into the university planetarium to see how they fared with a normal night sky and then one devoid of the Milky Way quotThe dung beetles don39t care which direction they39re going in They just need to get away from the bun fight at the poo pilequot Wits professor Marcus Byrne said quotBut when we turned off the Milky Way the beetles got lostquot And on cloudy nights without a moon or stars quotThey probably just stay at homequot Byrne said Reporting by Ed Cropley editing by Paul Casciato How the Namib Desert beetle could help stop frost on airplanes I A Namib Desert beetle helped scientists unlock the key to preventing or slowing frost The solution is the latest in a growing trend of nature inspired technology By Corey Fedde Staff January 23 2MB A desert beetle taught scientists how to prevent frost on airplanes coils and Windshields A team of scientists with the Virginia Polytechnic Institute Virginia Tech has discovered a method for controlling and preventing frost according to a study published in Scientific Reports an online journal run by Nature The method works around the combination of a specific pattern overlaid on top of a water resistant surface The team believes that by scaling up tests the method would be conducive for use on larger commercial objects like airplanes The inspiration for the effective frost prevention method came from an insect that lives in an environment where frost is rarely a problem Scientists based their method off the shell of the beetle The lessons learned from the Namib Desert beetle are the latest in a trend of nature inspired scientific breakthroughs quotI appreciate the irony of how an insect that lives in a hot dry desert inspired us to make a discovery about frostquot said Jonathan Boreyko an assistant professor of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics in the Virginia Tech College of Engineering in the press release for the study quotThe main takeaway from the Desert Beetle is we can control where dew drops growquot The Namib Desert beetle lives in the deserts of southwest Africa where water is scarce The beetle is able to collect airborne water through unique properties on its shell Specialized bumps working in tandem with the shell s smooth surface allows water droplets to form and run to the beetle s mouth according to Modern Reader Scientists viewed the unique patterns of the bumps on the beetle s shell and replicated them onto a silicon wafer a process known as photolithography The chemical pattern attracts water droplets while the surface of the material repels it The result keeps water droplets separated and running which slows or entirely prevents frost from growing The scientists noted their success in the introduction of their study Here we demonstrate that chemical patterns can be used to tune the spatial distribution of supercooled condensation and subsequently control the geometry and speed of interdroplet frost growth For the first time interdroplet ice bridging could be completely halted by utilizing sufficiently sparse hydrophilic patterns and by quickly triggering a freezing event near the patterned condensation According to the press release the scientists have successfully tested the method on a surface about a centimeter in size but say it can be scaled up for commercial use quotKeeping things dry requires huge energy expendituresquot said C Patrick Collier a coauthor of the study in the press release quotThat39s why we are paying more attention to ways to control water condensation and freezing It could result in huge cost savingsquot This not the first time the Namib Desert beetle has offered a novel solution to a human problem In 2012 a US startup company based their concept for a selffilling water bottle around the beetle s natural ability to distill water from the air Similar natureinspired solutions can be seen in everyday and future technology In 2009 Qualcomm MEMS Technologies created the first fullcolor ereader screen based on technology inspired by butter y wings according to Livescience In 2011 a team of researchers in Japan created a film to help solar panels capture more energy from the sun that was inspired by moth eyes Recently in 2015 a group of scientists created a new sensor for small drones that was discovered from studying insect eyes The growing trend of natureinspired solution have led to the opening of organizations like the Centre for Bioinspiration in California and the Biomimicry Institute in Montana among others C l l NBD Nano aims to mimic the way a beetle survives in an African desert to create a selffilling water bottle capable of storing up to three litres every hour The insect harvests moisture from the air by first getting it to condense on its back and then storing the water Using a similar approach the firm wants to cover the surface of a bottle with hydrophilic waterattracting and hydrophobic waterrepellent materials
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