Top Story: November 29, 2012

Incredible Insects

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Recent news stories examine entomological wonders— including a few insects that inspire human technology.

A leggy neighbor

The leggiest animal on the planet lives just south of San Francisco, according to a new report in ZooKeys. Illacme plenipes comes the closest to the description of a millipede than any of its relatives—females have as many as 750 legs!

Even millipede researcher Paul Marek thinks Illacme plenipes is special. Its plentiful legs have claws and National Geographic News lists more of its cool features:

…massive antennae (relative to the scale of its body), which the millipede uses to feel its way through the dark; a jagged and translucent exoskeleton; and body hairs that produce a sort of silk that may help Illacme plenipes adhere to the undersides of boulders. And unlike in other millipedes, the mouth of this species is specifically structured for piercing and sucking plant tissues.

Wanna get to know your neighbor? Movies and images are available for download here.

Insect hearing aids

A recent publication in Science explores how certain rainforest katydids are able to listen like mammals do, but much more efficiently. Katydids’ hearing organs are near the insects’ knees, and much like human ears, gather sounds from the air and transmit them to the brain in fluids.

For humans and other mammals, sounds are collected by the eardrums in vibrations, which are transferred by three ear bones to the cochlea. Fluid in the cochlea translates these sounds and sends them to the brain.

In katydids, the ear bones are missing, simplifying the process. (An excellent comparison illustration is available at Scientific American.) This simplification could lead to better hearing aids for humans, according to the lead author of the study, Fernando Montealegre-Z. “These findings change our views on insect hearing and open the way for designing ultrasensitive bio-inspired sensors.”

Insect-inspired water bottles

Finally, recent news reports describe a new company creating water-collecting bottles for “the most arid regions of the world.” Their inspiration? The Namib Desert beetle. Wired UK describes the insects’ process of water collection:

The beetle survives by collecting condensation from the ocean breeze on the hardened shell of its wings... The beetle extends and aims the wings at incoming sea breezes to catch humid air; tiny droplets 15 to 20 microns in diameter eventually accumulate on its back and run straight down towards its mouth.

Want more exciting entomology?

How about disease-fighting ladybirds? Learn more at ScienceShot. Insect movie stars? Watch their cameos at the New York Times.

Katydid image: Fernando Montealegre-Z and Daniel Robert

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  • bgrnathan

    NOT MADE BY NATURE! Just because something exists in nature doesn’t mean it was invented or made by Nature. If all the chemicals necessary to make a cell were left to themselves, “Mother Nature” would have no ability to organize them into a cell. It requires an already existing cell to bring about another cell. The cell exists and reproduces in nature but Nature didn’t invent or design it! Nature didn’t originate the cell or any form of life. An intelligent power outside of nature had to be responsible.

    Natural laws can explain how an airplane or living cell works, but it’s irrational to believe that mere undirected natural laws can bring about the origin of an airplane or a cell. Once you have a complete and living cell then the genetic program and biological machinery exist to direct the formation of more cells, but how could the cell have originated naturally when no directing code and mechanisms existed in nature? All of the founders of modern science believed in God. Read my Internet article: HOW FORENSIC SCIENCE REFUTES ATHEISM

    Only evolution within “kinds” is genetically possible (i.e. varieties of dogs, cats, etc.), but not evolution across “kinds” (i.e. from sea sponge to human). How did species survive if their vital tissues, organs, reproductive systems were still evolving? Survival of the fittest would actually have prevented evolution across kinds! Read my Internet article: WAR AMONG EVOLUTIONISTS! (2nd Edition). I discuss: Punctuated Equilibria, “Junk DNA,” genetics, mutations, natural selection, fossils, genetic and biological similarities between species.

    Natural selection doesn’t produce biological traits or variations. It can only “select” from biological variations that are possible and which have survival value. The real issue is what biological variations are possible, not natural selection. Only limited evolution, variations of already existing genes and traits are possible. Nature is mindless and has no ability to design and program entirely new genes for entirely new traits.

    What about genetic and biological similarities between species? Genetic information, like other forms of information, cannot happen by chance, so it is more logical to believe that genetic and biological similarities between all forms of life are due to a common Designer who designed similar functions for similar purposes. It doesn’t mean all forms of life are biologically related! Also, “Junk DNA” isn’t junk. These “non-coding” segments of DNA have recently been found to be vital in regulating gene expression (i.e. when, where, and how genes are expressed). Read my popular Internet article: HOW FORENSIC SCIENCE REFUTES ATHEISM

    Read my popular Internet article, HOW DID MY DNA MAKE ME?

    Visit my newest Internet site: THE SCIENCE SUPPORTING CREATION

    Sincerely,
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    (B.A. theology/biology)

    Author of popular Internet article, TRADITIONAL DOCTRINE OF HELL EVOLVED FROM GREEK ROOTS

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