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Arthropods, evolution, vision, and photography

Michael Bok
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  • April 13, 2011
  • 10:57 PM

The hidden beauty of insect wings

by Michael Bok in Arthropoda

Arthropods possess a diversity of sophisticated color vision systems: From tetrachromacy (having three color channels, like us), to the pentachromacy of butterflies, and the seemingly-absurd dodecachromacy of mantis shrimp. They are capable of perceiving the vibrant variety of the world’s light. Unsurprisingly, arthropods use their color vision for a wide range of tasks, including communication [...]... Read more »

Shevtsova, E., Hansson, C., Janzen, D., & Kjaerandsen, J. (2011) From the Cover: Stable structural color patterns displayed on transparent insect wings. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(2), 668-673. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1017393108  

  • February 6, 2011
  • 09:00 AM

A crustacean genome at last

by Michael Bok in Arthropoda

This week saw the official publication of the first crustacean genome (unless you count the flying crustacean genomes: fruit flies, bees, wasps, aphids, mosquitoes, and beetles). The genome is that of a “water flea” Daphnia pulex, a Branchiopod related to brine shrimp (Arthemia) and fairy shrimp (Triops). Daphnia is tiny, between 1.5 and 3 millimeters [...]... Read more »

Colbourne, J., Pfrender, M., Gilbert, D., Thomas, W., Tucker, A., Oakley, T., Tokishita, S., Aerts, A., Arnold, G., Basu, M.... (2011) The Ecoresponsive Genome of Daphnia pulex. Science, 331(6017), 555-561. DOI: 10.1126/science.1197761  

  • December 9, 2010
  • 07:46 PM

Could a new photoreceptor in fly larvae give us a glimpse at the evolutionary origins of vision?

by Michael Bok in Arthropoda

Last month, a paper was published in Nature showing that fruit fly larvae (Drosophila melanogaster) have a photoreceptive system spread across their entire bodies in diffuse sensory neurons. This system is involved in escape responses that protect the larvae from exposure to high intensity light. (For a thorough explanation of this paper read this post [...]... Read more »

  • October 5, 2010
  • 01:54 AM

Mantis Shrimp Bio-Armor

by Michael Bok in Arthropoda

There is mantis shrimp double-trouble in this month’s Journal of Experimental Biology, which features not one, but two papers about stomatopods. One, Porter et al., is a new phylogeny of stomatopods, including some eye structure character reconstructions. The second paper, by Taylor and Patek, is a study on stomatopod armor employed in ritualized sparring. I’ll [...]... Read more »

  • August 27, 2010
  • 05:46 PM

Do scarab beetles get to join an exclusive visual sensory club?

by Michael Bok in Arthropoda

Animal visual systems are evolutionarily tuned to exploit environmental light towards the purposes of spatial perception, navigation, and intraspecific communication. We predominately experience visual information based on variations in the intensity and the wavelengths of incoming light; perceived as brightness and colors. Other animals however, especially the arthropods, also rely on an additional visual modality with which to perceive their world. They are capable of detecting and discrimi........ Read more »

  • August 16, 2010
  • 08:50 PM

How mantis shrimp see circularly polarized light

by Michael Bok in Arthropoda

Mantis shrimp have long been regarded as visual super-stars. They can have up to 16 distinct photoreceptor types that are maximally sensitive to at least 12 different wavelengths (colors) of light; from deep in the ultraviolet, across our visual range, and into the infrared. In addition, they are strongly sensitive to linearly polarized light (LPL) [...]... Read more »

Chiou TH, Kleinlogel S, Cronin T, Caldwell R, Loeffler B, Siddiqi A, Goldizen A, & Marshall J. (2008) Circular polarization vision in a stomatopod crustacean. Current biology : CB, 18(6), 429-34. PMID: 18356053  

  • July 15, 2010
  • 10:49 PM

New advancements in spider confusion

by Michael Bok in Arthropoda

The rather amusing cover of this month’s JEB caught my eye; I am always excited to find out about the outlandish and creative methods that scientists dream up in order to test their ideas. Yep, that’s a jumping spider holding a styrofoam ball, tethered to the ceiling. So what the heck could possibly be going [...]... Read more »

  • April 30, 2010
  • 02:09 AM

Aphid adornment: Lateral gene transfer from fungi to aphids.

by Michael Bok in Arthropoda

Carotenoids are integral components of animal biochemistry. These organic compounds, characterized by long hydrocarbon chains and loops, are used in photoreception, antioxidation, the immune system, and for ornamental coloration. There are over 800 known carotenoid compounds found in nature. They absorb varying wavelengths of blue and green light, causing tissue containing large quantities of carotenoids [...]... Read more »

  • April 9, 2010
  • 02:37 AM

Is ‘the Drosophila‘ actually Drosophila?

by Michael Bok in Arthropoda

Celebrities commonly change their names on the path to stardom. Elton John began life as Reginald Kenneth Dwight, John Denver as Henry Deutschendorf, Jr, and Bela Lugosi as Be’la Ferenc Dezso Blasko. A name change can make someone more marketable in the fickle entertainment industry. However, once someone makes it big, their [...]... Read more »

Kim Van der Linde, & David Houle. (2008) A supertree analysis and literature review of the genus Drosophila and closely related genera. Insect Syst. Evol., 241-267. info:/

  • March 22, 2010
  • 08:54 PM

Aeronautic ants

by Michael Bok in Arthropoda

The Neotropical arboreal ant, Cephalotes atratus, is a species of gliding ant. These ants live rain forest canopies where the workers spend a lot of time on exposed branches and leaves. If one these ants accidentally falls, or intentionally leaps from a branch to avoid predation, it is able to glide adeptly back [...]... Read more »

Yanoviak SP, Munk Y, Kaspari M, & Dudley R. (2010) Aerial manoeuvrability in wingless gliding ants (Cephalotes atratus). Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society. PMID: 20236974  

  • March 2, 2010
  • 03:02 AM

Beewolf wasps culture their own antibiotics

by Michael Bok in Arthropoda

Humans have been aware of the antibiotic properties of some molds and plants for thousands of years. In classical times, fungal molds were used to treat infections. However, the true antibiotic renaissance began in 1928, when Alexander Fleming first isolated penicillin from the fungus, Penicillium notatum. Since then, penicillin and other powerful [...]... Read more »

Kroiss, J., Kaltenpoth, M., Schneider, B., Schwinger, M., Hertweck, C., Maddula, R., Strohm, E., & Svatoš, A. (2010) Symbiotic streptomycetes provide antibiotic combination prophylaxis for wasp offspring. Nature Chemical Biology. DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.331  

  • February 10, 2010
  • 09:59 PM

Unraveling Arthropoda

by Michael Bok in Arthropoda

A new paper, published online in Nature this week, aims to resolve long-standing disputes within Arthropod phylogenetics. This work offers strong evidence for, and opens new, perplexing questions about, the deep evolutionary history of arthropods.
The phylum Arthropoda consists of four major subphyla:

Chelicerata – Arachnids, horseshoe crabs, sea spiders.
Myriapoda – Centipedes, millipedes.
Crustacea [...]... Read more »

  • February 4, 2010
  • 02:40 AM

Bees can learn to discriminate human faces

by Michael Bok in Arthropoda

New research published in the Journal of Experimental Biology sheds light onto visual stimuli processing in arthropods. Researchers (Avargues-Weber et al., 2010) have shown that honeybees, Apis mellifera, are capable of complex visual processing and learning tasks that are commonly reserved for primates. With a small fraction of mammalian neural complexity, honeybees are [...]... Read more »

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