This video from campaigning group Plane Stupid has just been released in UK cinemas. Grim viewing, which younger children might find upsetting, even if you tell them it’s all done on computers. I’m not letting my 11 year old see it, or she’ll never get on a plane again, no matter how necessary/useful it is. Are these shock tactics appropriate?
These stunning pictures of the Australian Salticid, Maratus volans, were taken by Jurgen Otto and can be found on this Dutch website. Like many Salticids, this tiny jumping spider has a marked sexual dimorphism. Known as the peacock spider, the male – like the bird he is named after – has amazing irridiscent markings.
Courting a female spider is a pretty dangerous business – she is a vicious predator after all, so, as in many salticids, the male M. volans has an elaborate courtship display, in which he uses his brightly coloured abdominal flaps to show off to the female:
The mating display is very reminiscent of another Salticid, Saitis barbipes. Most Salticids, like the zebra spider you can find on ceilings and walls in the UK, have their first pair of legs decorated for use in signalling to the female. In S. barbipes, it’s the third pair.
Salticid mating displays may not only be visual. This YouTube video of a male Salticid courting (he’s much less impressive visually than either the Maratus or the Saitis male), suggests sound might be involved. While this wouldn’t be surprising, it gets so percussive towards the end that I wondered whether it hadn’t been dubbed on later on… What do you think? Does the “hilarious” in the title suggest I’m being conned?
Many thanks to John Altringham’s EZNews (a close relative of the Z-letter) and to Lesley Morrell who spotted the link.
The recent Frankfurt Book Fair saw this rather unusual living advert – little flyers attached to flies. They were released into the Book Fair to delight (or irritate) the worthies of the book world who were there to wheel and deal. What are the ethics of this? Where should it stop? Here, or with the release of a skunk?
Filed under Insects, Videos
In 1907-8, Thomas Hunt Morgan began to study Drosophila melanogaster in the laboratory. Morgan wasn’t the first to focus on the tiny fruitfly – in 1901 William E. Castle had begun breeding flies in Harvard.
Mendel’s laws had been rediscovered in 1903, but Morgan wasn’t interested in inheritance – indeed he was unconvinced about what was to be called “genetics”. Morgan wanted to look at evolution, by changing the flies’ environment and inducing what the scientist de Vries called “mutating periods”.
Throughout 1907 and 1908, hapless insects were therefore alternatively whizzed round in centrifuges, frozen, boiled, made to eat horrible food, and so on, in the vain hope that important mutational changes would arise. They never did. After three years, Morgan was ready to give the whole thing up as a bad job. Although Frank Lutz had found a wing mutant in 1908, nothing like a “mutating period” had been seen.
Then, in 1910, a series of mutations affecting different parts of the flies’ bodies began to appear – trident, olive, beaded and finally white. Using these and other mutants, in the next few years, Morgan and his students laid the foundations of modern genetics.
The flies finally had their say, however, in this YouTube song. One minor criticism, however – the song says flies don’t sleep. Oh yes, they do!
Thanks to Robert Myler for spotting this video.
Filed under Insects, Videos
Dealing with wild animals is difficult. This video tells the amusing/sad story of an arctic seal, which was found – very lost – off the coast of Africa, was brought to the UK, fed, then eventually released from the north coast of Scotland, pointed in the right direction. What happened next?
Filed under Oceans, Videos
This video from Natalie Beresford (First Year). Why might this cockatoo dance? Is it like a bored tiger or an emprisoned polar bear, or is there something else going on? Why does it do the bow at the end?
This has got nothing particularly to do with Zoology, but it really is worth watching. You think chalk-and-talk lectures are boring? Here’s an example of how they did things in the 1970s. A group of hip lecturers in California (where else?) decided to teach protein synthesis by getting their students to dance it… The first 2-3 minutes have a straightforward account of the process by a chap in a tie and a NASA haircut (turns out he’s Paul Berg, 1980 Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry). Then it gets interesting, with loads of students who could be your grandparents romping about to some rather cool music. Looks like everyone had a whale of a time. Do you think we should try something similar?
And if that reminds you of this Fatboy Slim video, I suspect it’s probably not a coincidence.
This video from Natalie Beresford (First Year). This is actually quite a serious question – these goats have a mutation in a muscle protein that makes them fall down. What human diseases might be related to this? What natural behaviours in other animals look like this?
You all know the generally-accepted “biological” definition of a species – a population of interbreeding organisms. Toads don’t seem to be quite so clear about this. A new article in Science looks at inter-specific hybridisation, which in two species of toad appears to be linked to environmental conditions.
BBC summary, including videos of toads; original article in Science (you or your institution will need a subscription to get past the abstract).