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Archive for the ‘fun’ Category

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WebMD Taxonomy Fail

Not a fire ant.

But I’ll give ten Myrmecos () points to the first person who can identify what species it really is.

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From the Ramsey Brothers:

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Wow. Just, Wow.

The most amazing video I’ve seen in a long time:

WIRED explains.

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Answer to the Monday Night Mystery

What was that bizarre balloon-spangled creature?

It’s the larva of a Theope butterfly in the family Riodinidae. Here is the full photo, from Panama:

Theope, tended by Azteca velox

An infinite number of highly valuable Myrmecos Points() go to commentator JasonC, who not only identified the larva but researched the function of the balloons.

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Monday Night Mystery

What’s this?

Five points for picking the family, five points for the genus.  And infinity points for figuring out what the those balloon-like structures are for. I have no idea.

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A short clip from the BBC program “Ant Attack

Driver ant males are astoundingly strange creatures. They are larger, more muscular, more exaggerated than most other male ants. The reason is likely linked to the behavior shown in the above video: males must first be accepted by a gauntlet of choosy workers.

A classic paper by Franks and Hoelldobler (1987) describes the theory. This preference of workers for bulkier males- and a corresponding slaughter of smaller or otherwise unsuitable ones- drives an evolutionary trajectory towards increasing monstrosity. It’s an ant version of the peacock’s tail.

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Speaking of bug horror movies:

If you can make it to Champaign-Urbana this weekend, the 2010 Insect Fear Film Festival will feature The Black Scorpion (1957) and Ice Crawlers (2003). The grad students are assembling art displays, face painting, and an impressively large arthropod petting zoo. The’ve even shipped in live horseshoe crabs, as well as bess beetles, tarantulas, ginormous grasshoppers & cockroaches, and others. It’s tremendous fun.

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A video from Cambridge University highlights an infectiously enthusiastic Chris Clemente as he figures out how ants stick to smooth surfaces:

Wow.

Two things strike me about the video. First, they simplified the science for a lay audience without fundamentally changing it. That’s something of a rarity, as any scientist who has seen their work covered in the media can attest. Second, they did this while retaining a sense of humor and the strong sense of humanity in the scientific process.

Most scientists I know have a similarly intense fascination with their subjects- that’s a rich vein for promoters of science to tap. This obviously was an expensive piece. Professional grade equipment and skilled videographers, of course.  But if these sorts of productions can affect the public perception of science, they may be an investment worth making.

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