Monday, April 25, 2016

Entomology Exploration:Hercules Beetles

You probably know from the SAVE THE FROGS! event that I'm against dissections. So, when my mom found a 4D Vision dissection model for a Hercules beetle, we figured that it would be a good dissection alternative lab.

Click on the image to go to Amazon to buy the model!


The completed model. Its construction went fairly well, except one of the parts didn't seem to have anywhere it could attach. After constructing the model, I created some sketches. 




As well as doing some sketches, I also assembled  this model.




Some behind-the-scenes looks at sketches in the making.


Information about Hercules Beetles

Hercules Beetles or Rhinoceros Beetles are large, herbivorous beetles in the scarab beetle family (Scarabaeidae) that have been observed to eat decaying plant material, including rotten fruit, logs, and leaves. Their common name comes from the large horn exhibited on the male, used during mating season to combat with other males for mates. Ounce for ounce, Hercules Beetles are the world's strongest creatures, with some species able to lift 850 times their own body weight. When disturbed, some species produce hissing squeaks by rubbing their abdomen against their wing covers. Some species are of conservational concern, but in some Asian countries, bets are placed on which one of two male Hercules Beetles will knock the other off a log and in many cases, they are collected as pets. Due to their impressive horns and large size, they are sought after for many insect collections. They are found on every continent except Antarctica, ranging from Arizona eastward, traveling north to Kentucky. Which means that they are native in my area (I'm near Memphis, Tennessee) so I now have a new bucket list species. They undergo complete metamorphosis with the female laying eggs, which hatch into grubs. The grubs pupate, and emerge from the pupa as young Hercules Beetles. In males, the size of the horn depends on how much nutrition the beetle received as a grub. Including the larval and pupal stages, the lifespan of a Hercules Beetle ranges from 1-2 years. 


Bibliography

Hercules Beetles of Kentucky. Blake Newton. University of Kentucky Entomology. University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, 7 Mar. 2008. Web. 25 Apr. 2016. http://www.uky.edu/Ag/CritterFiles/casefile/insects/beetles/hercules/hercules.htm.
Rhinoceros Beetles. A.V. Evans. National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America. National Wildlife Federation, 2007. Web. 25 Apr. 2016. http://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wildlife-Library/Invertebrates/Rhinoceros-Beetles.aspx.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Exasperated with Random Uninformed People on Twitter:Parody of "No" by Meghan Trainor

This song is about random people falling for sensationalism, not any of the seriously awesome people who follow My Little Python on Twitter.




You think you're so cute when you try to retweet
'bout snakes that ate a full-grown man and grow to 30 feet
But all I can say is that your knowledge is incomplete


Nah to the ah to the no, no, no
It's venomous? No. A copperhead? No. A rattlesnake? No.
You should have let it go, you should have let it go
Should have let it go
Nah to the ah to the, no, no, no
It's venomous? No. A copperhead? No. A rattlesnake? No.
You should have let it go, you should have let it go
Should have let it go
Nah to the ah to the no, no, no


Why do you want to play stupid Twitter games?
Thinkin' we're believing every word
Say that it needs killed, showing off your skills
At being completely uninformed
Hey, haven't you heard? That perspective's forced
No rattlesnake is or has ever been that long. I think that one's a toy! Just, ugh.
Blah, blah, blah
Reply like nah to the ah to the no, no, no


Say that snake was 30 foot
#Unbelievable
Just don't say eep or tell your tweeps
And what I have to say is...


It's venomous? No. A copperhead? No. A rattlesnake? No.
You should have let it go, you should have let it go
Should have let it go
Nah to the ah to the, no, no, no
It's venomous? No. A copperhead? No. A rattlesnake? No.
You should have let it go, you should have let it go
Should have let it go
Nah to the ah to the no, no, no


Why'd you cut off its head? It shouldn't have been dead.
It eats nothing more than mice and rats
It doesn't want a man, and not an evil plan
You just should have left the snake alone
Before it was your zone, it was the serpent's home
It wasn't trying to get personal
Blah, blah, blah
Reply like nah to the ah to the no, no, no


Say that snake was 30 foot
#Unbelievable
Just don't say eep or tell your tweeps
And what I have to say is...


It's venomous? No. A copperhead? No. A rattlesnake? No.
You should have let it go, you should have let it go
Should have let it go
Nah to the ah to the, no, no, no
It's venomous? No. A copperhead? No. A rattlesnake? No.
You should have let it go, you should have let it go
Should have let it go
Nah to the ah to the no, no, no

[Bridge]
That tweet is...
Not credible, not credible
That tweet is...
Not credible, not credible
That tweet is...
Not credible, not credible
That tweet is...
Not credible, not credible
Nah to the ah to the no, no, no
That tweet is...
Not credible, not credible
That tweet is...
Not credible, not credible
That tweet is...
Not credible, not credible
That tweet is...
Not credible, not credible
Nah to the ah to the no, no, no


Say that snake was 30 foot
#Unbelievable
Just don't say eep or tell your tweeps
And what I have to say is...


It's venomous? No. A copperhead? No. A rattlesnake? No.
You should have let it go, you should have let it go
Should have let it go
Nah to the ah to the, no, no, no
It's venomous? No. A copperhead? No. A rattlesnake? No.
You should have let it go, you should have let it go
Should have let it go
Nah to the ah to the no, no, no


That tweet is...
Not credible, not credible
That tweet is...
Not credible, not credible
That tweet is...
Not credible, not credible
Nah to the ah to the no, no, no

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Genetics of virtual fruit flies

My records. Click to enlarge.


The digital lab the records are from was created by the nice folks at Expandable Mind Software! As well as letting you digitally breed flies, they also have all kinds of digital dissections and biology labs. Check them out sometime! For the last couple of weeks, I have been breeding flies. Lots of flies. Luckily, they're digital flies so there isn't any ecological risk or infestation. But there were a lot of flies. And a lot of traits. I'm impressed at my fly software's attention to detail. Every trait a fly could possibly have was in there and I tested them. According to my observations, digital flies have absolutely no sex-linked traits and I think the software had some templates for what profiles the traits had and used them, so once I had completed the first page of records, the rest came intuitively. A surprising number of the traits are recessive, as in real animals. The few dominant traits are obviously dominant, with examples like a trait where in F1, every single fly exhibited that trait and then 50% because obviously, two heterozygous flies bred. I noticed that Punnett squares are noticeably like sudoku puzzles or filling in magic squares. Once you have one possible offspring genotype, the rest come to you. Although, for those of you who heard about this, being used to My Little Python's content, but you're interested, here's some genetics vocabulary.

  • Autosomal:Not dependent on the gender of the fly.
  • Sex-linked:Dependent on fly's gender
  • Genotype:The genes of a given individual
  • Phenotype:What's visible in the individual
  • Homozygous:Exhibiting the same allelle twice
  • Heterozygous:Having two different allelles
  • Allelle:A trait
Overall, I'd give this fly software 5 Unicode hearts! ♥♥♥♥♥ (I don't know how to make a star) It has good graphics, is compatible with all 3 Web browsers I use, is comprehensive of traits, and just overall a great simulation! Plus, somewhere in Neopia, a Quiggle or Nimmo (both frog-like Neopets) is having a feast with hundreds of digital fruit flies, all with different genetic traits. 


Monday, April 4, 2016

Post-Easter Special:The Fractured Ecosystem of Easter Egg Land

The last time we analyzed toy bugs, there were actually more than 3 or 4 orders involved and most of them were actually arthropods. This time, we're analyzing Easter eggs we bought at 75% off at Walmart.

Background Information

For the SAVE THE FROGS! event, we were stockpiling discounted eggs for the Frog Egg Hunt, although most of them were things frogs eat. But we figured that we might as well analyze them before they went in the bag for the egg hunt. So, we return to our faithful order cards. This time, I picked the most common orders or the orders we observed as I don't think we'd need all the orders because it's hard to make cute Easter eggs of fleas (Siphonaptera) or mantids (Mantodea). But this is what we observed.

Observations

Easter Egg Land has just about the least arthropod diversity I have ever seen. Despite very interesting animals, such as bunnies that lay eggs, very few orders were found. Hymenopterans had an astounding bias, surprisingly, considering that in Easter Egg Land, until recently, I thought there were almost no stinging insects or ants that invade Easter candy. (Don't ask about the ant thing. I've experienced it almost every year.) Yet, surprisingly, various varieties of brightly colored ants and very fat bees and wasps were observed.

Coleoptera or the beetles had many individuals, but they were all the same species, namely a variety of very brightly colored Easter Egg Land ladybug. I don't quite understand what the ladybugs eat, given that there are absolutely no aphids in Easter Egg Land, but somehow they survive. Perhaps they have turned to eating leaves, or each other. This means that perhaps these ladybugs are only ladybugs morphologically. Easter Egg Land is a harsh place, with normally beneficial insects becoming pests as there are no insects that are their preferred food source. Why do we never see this and think of Easter Egg Land as a utopian place, where everything in nature eats candy and lives in harmony? 


Obviously, given what we observed, lepidopterans and their larva are the dominant species in Easter Egg Land. We have observed very few predators of these insects and they can't even all fit on a single order card. Due to the low diversity and the absence of many kinds of plants essential for Earth's butterflies to survive, my prediction is that Easter Egg Land's lepidopterans are predatory, eating other insects due to the absence of many plants. Especially with the absence of predators, a single species of predatory butterfly thrives in Easter Egg Land, eating almost everything. This fractured ecosystem has little research done on it, and almost all the information we know about it is false. But there is hope. There are other species, namely large dragonflies that may compete with the butterflies.
Unfortunately, probably due to the introduction of invasive species, such as egg-laying bunnies, the order Odonata is highly endangered, with only 3 examples in 3 boxes of Easter eggs. Their niche is probably as competition against the predatory butterflies, competing for food, shelter, and what little plant life exists. They seem to be approximately the same size as the lepidopterans, but perhaps they aren't members of Odonata at all, but another variation of the predatory lepidopterans of Easter Egg Land. Perhaps diversity is even worse than I thought it was, with only 3 orders of insects. 





In some cases, I have found that selections of species from Easter Egg Land, labeled to all be Arthropoda, contain different, non-arthropod species. Frogs are very common in other sets we've observed, but none of them were present in the sets used in this study. Instead, Gastropoda or snails were found, with two individuals, probably occupying the niche of prey for the predatory butterflies. Chelonia or turtles had many individuals, providing hope for the idea that at least as larvae, the predatory butterflies and dragonflies have predators. However, once they become adults, I have discovered that given the wingspan of the butterflies and the weight of the turtles, and knowing the niche of the butterflies, that once they become adults, the butterflies and dragonflies can easily carry off the turtles into the air, bringing them into their dens and eating them alive. 


Conclusion

Easter Egg Land has serious problems. If we want to conserve the ecosystem and hopefully restore it, we will have to make sure to control the invasive egg-laying bunnies and introduce large animals that can eat the predatory butterflies. It is possible that Easter Egg Land's fractured ecosystem is a result of the yearly removal of thousands of animals from Easter Egg Land for the holiday. With enough conservation efforts, we might be able to restore order to Easter Egg Land. The main thing Easter Egg Land needs is awareness. So I encourage you to advocate for the conservation of Easter Egg Land's native species and the control of egg-laying bunnies.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Frogbert

These comics are a parody of Dilbert, starring Smitten, a frog who loves everything and everybody-until she gets a new job.

Click any comics to enlarge.