A scientist unravels the evolution of anthropods, a photographer gets intimate with the bee and its stinger, an angry tree frog displays a bum-shaking warning and the International Institute for Species Exploration announces the Best Species of 2009. Here are highlights in ecology from the third week in May.
Artificial flight: Engineers designed a robotic butterfly in an attempt to understand the mechanics of the delicate wings’ flitting action (see above video). Physiologists determined that, while an impressive technological feat, the robot actually does not contribute a great deal to the understanding of the butterfly’s natural oscillating flight style. Read more at “Artificial Butterfly in Flight.”
Ancient insects: On the blog Anthropoda, Michael Bok discusses the explosion of diversity during the Cambrian Period, and what these ancient metazoan life forms contributed to the evolution of modern anthropod species. Read more and view photos of recently discovered fossils at “Early branches on the arthropod family tree.”
Intimate bee shots: Using a high-resolution scanning electron microscope, photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher provides an intimate close-up of the bee’s anatomy, including its stinger, antenna and eyes. Read more and view the detailed photos at “The Alluring and Alien Sights of a Bee in Ultra Close-up.”
Angry vibes: Rigging infrared cameras, accelerometers and a robotic frog to tree limbs, Michael Caldwell from Boston University unraveled the communication between provoked male red-eyed tree frogs. He found that the frogs shook their hindquarters, thereby causing the tree limb on which they were perched to quiver as a warning sign to other male tree frogs. The process was filmed using infrared cameras (see above). Read more and see additional videos at “Tree frogs shake their bums to send threatening vibes.”
Top Ten Species: The International Institute for Species Exploration announced the Top 10 Best New Species of 2009, featuring an insectivorous sea slug, a carnivorous sea sponge and a two-inch mushroom named in honor of Robert C. Drewes at the California Academy of Sciences for his 30 years of research in Africa, where the fungus was found. Read the full list at “Bomber Worms And Far Out Frogfish: Top Ten New Species For 2009.”
Also, demystifying the argonaut octopus, discovering two new species, telling the genetic “tail” of lab rats, rescuing the world’s smallest lily from extinction and getting to the root of the discussion on Discovery’s Shark Week programming.