Detachable tails aid in Lizard’s survival…

It is not unusual for some to sacrifice a body part when under attack. Spiders will lose a leg. Crabs will give up a claw, and some rodents are known to shed skin in order to survive. Why is it so easy for a lizard to lose its tail when threatened and yet it remains so strongly attached when under normal conditions? The bones and muscles in the tail are so important for movement and balance and yet can be separated so easily. The vertebrae which extend down the tail is constructed in a way that it has weak areas known as fracture planes. When threatened the muscles along these planes will pull apart and release the tail. There is no blood loss during this process. Since an average lizard will live for four years and it takes 4 months to grow a new tail, it is estimated that they can perform this feat at least 12 times. Unfortunately, we have not yet evolved to mimic this process.

 

 

Insect Waste Valued by Farmers…

Insects are being farmed as a source of food for both humans as well as animals. Now it seems the waste they excrete, their feces (frass) and their outgrown exoskeletons (exuviae), are now valuable to farmers as a way of rejuvenating soil. Both frass and exuviae are rich in polymers and nutrients needed to promote plant growth. The waste it seems stimulates microbe growth which can be an asset in sustainable farming.

 

Endangered Condors reproduce Asexually:

Conservationists for the endangered California condors have discovered 2 instances where unfertilized eggs have successfully hatched into chicks. The findings were published in “The Journal of Heredity”. Parthenogenesis is the process in which a female animal produces an embryo that has not been fertilized. However, this is common in fish and lizards. It has been rare in birds but has occurred in turkeys, finches, and pigeons. The California condor was removed from the wild after 1982 when it was discovered that there were 23 remaining. In captivity their number has increased to 504. A concise database was established since males and females look the same and to prevent inbreeding. In 2001 and 2009 two male chicks were found to have DNA markers that did not code with any of the males. This meant that no male condor had fathered the chicks while they only genetic info from the mom. Scientists are now looking into the possibility that more birds may be giving birth by Parthenogenesis as a last-ditch effort to save their species from extinction.

Sea Slugs that Decapitate Themselves…

The Nara Women’s University of Japan has a vast collection of Sea Slugs. It was noticed that on occasion the body of a sea slug would be lying next to its severed head. What was strange was the severed head was still moving around the tank and still munching on algae. What was determined by the scientists was that sea slugs will decapitate themselves if they feel their body has become infected by a parasite. The head wound took about a day to heal and a new heart about 3 days to grow. However, there was no new growth on the severed body, but it did react to stimuli for months before finally decomposing. Too bad Marie Antoinette wasn’t part sea slug.