This week Dr Tommy Leung draws our attention to bunkers for bats, cookiecutter sharks, social media for scientists, air-breathing fish, fashion double-standards in academia, table-turning in the spider world, two new Parasite of the Day blog posts, how honey helps bees detoxify and boost immunity, and what happens inside a chrysalis.
Cold War nuclear bunkers are the latest attempt to safeguard US bat populations under attack from white-nose syndrome (WNS). WNS is associated with a fungus known as Geomyces destructans. Once present in a colony, WNS can wipe out the entire population. The disease, which appears to target hibernating species, was first reported in a cave in New York in February 2006. The most common visible symptom of an infected bat is a white fungus on the animal’s nose, but it can also appear on its wings, ears or tail. Other symptoms include weight loss and abnormal behaviour, such as flying in daylight or sub-zero temperatures. Read more of Mark Kinver’s article, Cold War bunkers offer bats refuge from killer disease, at BBC News Science & Environment.
Better Know a Fish is Ben Young Landis’ blog on fish diversity. Early this month was a post about the Cookiecutter Shark, Isistius brasiliensis. Cookiecutter sharks are called such because of their unique mouth and feeding habits. The mouth of this shark is shaped like a round suction cup, with an upper jaw full of needle-like teeth and the lower jaw equipped with rows of interconnected, saw-blade-like teeth. This frightening combination of dental equipment allows these small sharks, under 60 cm in length, to feed on and inflict gruesome damage to creatures much larger than itself – even great white sharks. Each bite is like a melon baller digging out ripe melon, or a cookie cutter carving out a round piece of soft dough.
A paper, An Introduction to Social Media for Scientists, by Holly M. Bik and Miriam C. Goldstein in PLoS Biology begins:
In many ways, the fast-paced evolution of the internet parallels the move toward “big data” in science. In less than a decade, online tools have exploded in popularity and witnessed rapid expansion, with an increasing number of scientists now looking to take advantage of these web-based resources. Social media portals in particular undergo regular reinvention and transformation, with different tools becoming popular for different populations. Although a number of guides exist online, many researchers still feel overwhelmed and hesitant toward the virtual world, lacking sufficient information and guidance through formal scientific channels such as peer-reviewed journals. To better familiarize researchers with existing internet resources, here we discuss prospective benefits that can stem from online science conversations, explain how scientists can efficiently and effectively harness online resources, and provide an overview of popular online tools.
Prepare to be amazed by Dr Jeffrey Graham’s video The First Gasp of Air: The Incredible Story of Air-breathing Fish on YouTube. Travel with Dr Jeffrey Graham to swamps, jungles, and isolated islands where he probes the world of air breathing fishes and asks the question, why breathe air?
Being taken seriously: the double standard is a blog post written by scicurious (the pen name of Dr Bethany Brookshire) and is an article about the difference in men’s and women’s attire in the world of academia.
Lookout – the tables turn on female spiders! Carrie Arnold, writing for Nat Geo’s Weird & Wild, shocked us all with her piece, Surprise! Male Spiders Eat Females, Too. New research shows that males of a type of ground spider known as Micaria sociabilis eat females, and scientists are trying to figure out what motivates this behaviour.
Tommy also wrote two new posts for the Parasite of the Day blog – the first on a fluke with a series of host which sounds more like items on the menu of a seafood restaurant, Prosorhynchoides borealis, and the second on a sexually-transmitted nematode which infects lizards, Cyrtosomum penneri.
Over at the Discover D-brief blog, Breanna Draxler’s article, Honey May Be Bees’ Best Medicine for Colony Collapse Disorder, discusses the results of research published in PNAS. Breanna writes:
The researchers identified a handful of chemicals that boost these detoxifying genes. The most potent was an acid called p-coumaric acid, which is found in pollen grains. By eating honey, which contains traces of pollen, the bees become less susceptible to the range of pesticides and pathogens they encounter on their pollinating exploits.
Finally, I’ll let Tommy explain in his own words about Ed Yong’s article for Nat Geo’s Phenomena: Not Exactly Rocket Science blog, 3-D Scans Reveal Caterpillars Turning Into Butterflies:
When I was a child, I once kept a caterpillar as a pet. I fed it and kept a detailed diary of its development, taking notes everyday until it finally grew into a chrysalis, then metamorphosed into a moth. When it was a chrysalis, I had always wondered what went on inside it. Well now science has finally fulfilled something I’ve always wanted to do as a child – looking inside a developing chrysalis.