Post List

  • November 25, 2014
  • 05:17 PM

Blu-ray solar power

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

So here’s something you don’t see everyday. Blu-ray disks, you know the stuff we use for video games or DVDs also improve the performance of solar cells—suggesting a second use for unwanted discs—according to new research from Northwestern University. As surprising as this was, there is even better news, we know why they improve performance.... Read more »

  • November 25, 2014
  • 01:18 PM

Oy. I worry about this with cell line studies a lot. Mis-IDed contaminated.

by Mary in OpenHelix

Via NCBI Announce mailing list: NCBI BioSample includes curated list of over 400 known misidentified and contaminated cell lines The NCBI BioSample database now includes a curated list of over 400 known misidentified and contaminated cell lines. Scientists should check this list before they start working with a new cell line to see if that cell line […]... Read more »

American Type Culture Collection Standards Development Organization Workgroup ASN-0002. (2010) Cell line misidentification: the beginning of the end. Nature Reviews Cancer, 10(6), 441-448. DOI:  

  • November 25, 2014
  • 08:00 AM

As A Bird - It's No Turkey

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

The turkey is an amazing bird, beyond it’s taste on Thanksgiving. It has some really funky structures on its head, like the caruncles, wattle and snood, but research shows that they are important in mate selection. The question is why they have been retained even though they are artificially bred nowadays. Maybe they are for more than just mate selection. And yes....turkeys can fly.... Read more »

  • November 25, 2014
  • 03:20 AM

Serotonin - melatonin (and the in-betweeners) linked to autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

The paper by Pagan and colleagues [1] (open-access) looking at "serotonin, melatonin and the intermediate N-acetylserotonin (NAS) in a large cohort of patients with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] and their relatives" set the old grey-pink matter into action recently. Not only because I have some real interest in the starting material for these compounds - the aromatic amino acid known as tryptophan - but because this research group included some quite important analysis of the enzymes involved in the reaction from serotonin to melatonin with autism in mind.Just before heading into the paper and the details, I'm gonna draw your attention to the picture shown to the right (hand drawn by yours truly) which was originally included in a blog post on something called 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). As you can see, the source material tryptophan eventually cascades down into various other compounds with serotonin and melatonin in mind. I might add that this is not the only metabolic fate of tryptophan as, for example, per another important compound set: the kynurenine pathway again talked about on this blog.Serotonin (5-HT) for those who might not know is a neurotransmitter that represents one of the 'S' in the class of medicines called SSRIs hinting at its relationship to mood regulation among other things. Melatonin by contrast has quite an important role in functions like sleep; although, as has been previously mentioned on this blog, melatonin might be quite the molecular handyperson (see here). Both serotonin and melatonin have some history when it comes to autism research and practice (see here for example).N-acetylserotonin (NAS) is a slightly less well-known compound when it comes to autism. A quick trawl of PubMed using the search term 'N-Acetylserotonin autism' came up with two other entries at the time of writing. Granted both the Anderson-Maes [2] and Carter and colleagues [3] make for interesting reading for different reasons, but there does seem to be a dearth of research on the possibility of a role for NAS for at least some autism.Now, back to the Pagan paper and a few pointers even though it is open-access:The hypothesis: "that (i) the intermediate NAS might also be altered, (ii) alterations of the serotonin-NAS–melatonin pathway might constitute a possible biomarker for a subgroup of individuals with ASD and that (iii) they would be associated with specific clinical profiles."Whilst avoiding foods high in tryptophan and/or serotonin such as bananas and chocolate, morning blood samples were provided by "278 patients with ASD, their 506 first-degree relatives (129 unaffected siblings, 199 mothers and 178 fathers) and 416 sex- and age-matched controls" and various parts of the sample assayed for serotonin, melatonin and NAS. The analytical weapons of choice were HPLC (albeit with a rather antiquated method by today's mass spec / NMR standards) and ELISA among other things. A small number of urine samples were also collected and analysed for 6-Sulfatoxymelatonin.Results: on the whole, those with autism presented with "elevated whole-blood serotonin" whilst "Plasma melatonin was significantly decreased in individuals with ASD and their relatives compared with controls." These are not surprising results given the research history in this area. With slightly more novelty: "the intermediate metabolite NAS, measured in blood platelets, was found to be significantly elevated in individuals with ASD and their relatives compared with controls." Further such elevations in platelet NAS "strongly correlated" with the plasma melatonin findings noted in cases of autism. There was potentially also something to see when the results were pooled together in terms of discriminating autism from not-autism but I'll leave it up to you to decide how well their biomarkers functioned.Bearing in mind my diagram shown above, the increase in serotonin, increase in NAS but decrease in melatonin might provide some important information about where there may be a metabolic 'block'. In this respect, the authors' analysis of "two enzymes, AANAT [Aralkylamine N-acetyltransferase] and ASMT [N-Acetylserotonin O-methyltransferase] known to form protein complexes with 14-3-3 scaffolding proteins" is also important. Actually, authors looked at 14-3-3 in platelets and reported it/them: "significantly decreased in patients with ASD." Previous work from this group [4] had indicated that ASMT activity to be lower in cases of autism; thus suggesting that problems with this enzyme or the availability of this enzyme converting NAS to melatonin might for example, account for the lower melatonin findings.I've gone on a little bit in this post but hope that you can see the logic in doing so. Metabolic pathways when it comes to human physiology are pretty complex things affected by all manner of variables including things like enzyme function and the availability of those all-important cofactors (see here for some chatter about BH4 for example). Pagan et al have done a good preliminary job of stitching together some important compounds with autism in mind and particularly their findings in relation to NAS. I personally am looking forward to seeing some independent replication of these findings and perhaps onwards, a little more analysis of some other tryptophan derivatives [5] potentially important to [some] autism...A little music to close: Mark Ronson - Uptown Funk.----------[1] Pagan C. et al. The serotonin-N-acetylserotonin–melatonin pathway as a biomarker for autism spectrum disorders. Translational Psychiatry. 2014. November 11.[2] Anderson G. & Maes M. Redox Regulation and the Autistic Spectrum: Role of Tryptophan Catabolites, Immuno-inflammation, Autoimmunity and the Amygdala. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2014 Mar;12(2):148-67.[3] Carter MD. et al. Quantitation of melatonin and n-acetylserotonin in human plasma by nanoflow LC-MS/MS and electrospray LC-MS/MS. J Mass Spectrom. 2012 Mar;47(3):277-85.[4] Melke J. et al. Abnormal melatonin synthesis in autism spectrum disorders. Mol Psychiatry. 2008 Jan;13(1):90-8.[5] Anderson RJ. et al. Identification of indolyl-3-acryloylglycine in the urine of people with autism. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2002 Feb;54(2):295-8.----------... Read more »

Pagan C, Delorme R, Callebert J, Goubran-Botros H, Amsellem F, Drouot X, Boudebesse C, Le Dudal K, Ngo-Nguyen N, Laouamri H.... (2014) The serotonin-N-acetylserotonin-melatonin pathway as a biomarker for autism spectrum disorders. Translational psychiatry. PMID: 25386956  

  • November 25, 2014
  • 01:00 AM

Adventures in correcting the (semi-)scientific record

by Ray Carey in ELFA project

One of the blogs I follow is Retraction Watch, which documents the world of quality control in scientific research – pre-publication peer review (and its abuses); post-publication peer review in fora such as research blogs; retractions and corrections by journals; and plagiarism and fraud. The large majority of cases they report on are drawn from […]... Read more »

  • November 25, 2014
  • 12:05 AM

Kinesiotaping with Exercise Versus Manual Therapy with Exercise in Patients with Subacromial Impingement Syndrome

by Lauren Hankle, Kayla Green in Sports Medicine Research (SMR): In the Lab & In the Field

Kinesiotaping with exercise and manual therapy with exercise are both effective in decreasing pain and disability in patients with subacromial impingement syndrome. The kinesiotaping with exercise intervention was more effective in decreasing pain at night than the manual therapy with exercise treatment group. ... Read more »

  • November 24, 2014
  • 11:19 PM

JUST PUBLISHED: Not Just Pineapple and Water: How do People Integrate Information from Multiple Sources?

by Mark Rubin in The University of Newcastle's School of Psychology Newsline

When choosing a restaurant for a dinner with friends we need to combine information prior to decision, concerning the location, menu, and price range. Similarly, when crossing a busy road, we sometimes need to integrate information from multiple sources, such as horn sounds and the sight of approaching cars. A recent paper published by myself and colleagues does not tell you which restaurant to choose for your party or how to safely cross the road. Rather, it provides a means for evaluating how people combine information from various sources prior to decision, and implements these tools in the context of a simple laboratory experiment of visual detection.We can refer to the above means as ‘Cognitive Modeling Tools,’ as they tell us something meaningful about the underlying model that subserves our cognitive system. We cannot observe the cognitive system directly; it is a hypothetical entity, and to be honest I have never seen it myself despite studying it for several years. Thus, our understanding of the kind of information-processing that happens in the brain comes from observing overt behavioural measures. Indeed, the current paper focuses on measures of response times and accuracy that anyone can observe and record.Our response-time measures (based on the work of Jim Townsend and his colleagues) use the entire distribution and are thus quite powerful. Our measure of accuracy is a novel expansion of Shaw’s No Response Probability Contrast. For brevity, I often refer to this paper as the ‘NRPC paper’.Cognitive modelling requires some level of mathematical understanding. Luckily, much of the analyses nowadays can be implemented as readily available and easy-to-use computer codes. Relevant Matlab codes are available for free on my website. So, if you are interested in questions of information integration, such as how to combine the wits and the looks of your date, or the taste of water with pineapple please consult the paper, or contact me directly at more information, please see the following paper:Eidels, A., Townsend, J., Hughes, H., & Perry, L. (2014). Evaluating perceptual integration: Uniting response-time- and accuracy-based methodologies Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics DOI: 10.3758/s13414-014-0788-y... Read more »

  • November 24, 2014
  • 03:26 PM

Hiding cells to prevent HIV transmission

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

The fight against HIV is ongoing and despite our rapid progression against the disease we still lack a cure or even adequate treatment for people infected. However, new research suggests that cloaking immune cells with antibodies that block T cell trafficking to the gut can substantially reduce the risk of viral transmission, at least in a non-human primate model of HIV infection. If it works out, this could help slow down the spread of HIV and give people a better shot at a normal life.... Read more »

  • November 24, 2014
  • 07:02 AM

Thin-slicing infidelity: Brief observation can reveal more than you ever thought!

by Doug Keene in The Jury Room

Our clients are routinely stunned by the accuracy of  mock juror impressions of witnesses and parties based on a 6 to 8 minute video clip from depositions. Mock jurors quickly assess character and are often eager to share their insights. Their comments can be insightful, surprising, and sometimes biting in their judgments. So, okay. It’s […]

Related posts:
Unfaithful partner? Would you rather be seen as mature– or as competent and strong?
A law firm’s financial success & the managing partners’ face
“I like you but I don’t know why”

... Read more »

  • November 24, 2014
  • 05:15 AM

Helicobacter pylori and stem cells in the gastric crypt

by Artem Kaznatcheev in Evolutionary Games Group

Last Friday, the 4th Integrated Mathematical Oncology Workshop finished here at Moffitt. The event drew a variety of internal and external participants — you can see a blurry photo of many of them above — and was structured as a competition between four teams specializing in four different domains: Microbiome, Hepatitis C, Human papillomavirus, and […]... Read more »

Houghton, J., Stoicov, C., Nomura, S., Rogers, A.B., Carlson, J., Li, H., Cai, X., Fox, J.G., Goldenring, J.R., & Wang, T.C. (2004) Gastric cancer originating from bone marrow-derived cells. Science, 306(5701), 1568-71. PMID: 15567866  

  • November 24, 2014
  • 05:00 AM

Removable functional appliances do not change skeletal pattern to a clinically meaningful amount

by Kevin OBrien in Kevin OBrien's Orthodontic Blog

Functional appliances do not influence skeletal pattern… This post is on functional appliances, which is an area that I have covered several times. A few postings ago I mentioned that the journals are publishing more and more systematic reviews. I also made the point in a previous post, that we need to critically read these […]
The post Removable functional appliances do not change skeletal pattern to a clinically meaningful amount appeared first on Kevin O'Brien's Orthodontic Blog.
... Read more »

  • November 24, 2014
  • 04:29 AM

Finland, parental migration and offspring Asperger syndrome

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

A quote from the paper by Venla Lehti and colleagues [1] to start things off: "The study showed that children whose parents are both immigrants have a significantly lower likelihood of being diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome than those with two Finnish parents."Can I cook, or can't I?Based on an analysis of data derived from "the Finnish Hospital Discharge Register" and "the Finnish Medical Birth Register", researchers looked at the records of children with a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome (AS) born between 1987-2005 (n=1783) to ascertain "maternal and paternal immigration" status including mother language spoken. Compared with over 7000 control participants they found that there was indeed something significant to see when it came to parental origins and in particular when mothers and/or fathers were "born in Sub-Saharan Africa".This is intriguing data. The fact that authors looked at the diagnosis of AS and, by diagnostic criteria, those positioned at a specific point on the autism spectrum with symptoms not normally accompanied by the presence of learning disability (intellectual disability) and fewer issues with spoken language, is important. Previous research by this same group [2] also discussed on this blog (see here) had indicated that "the risk of childhood autism was increased for those whose parents are both immigrants" compared to having two Finnish parents based on the same data registries. The contrast with the more recent data reporting that parental migration status might be protective against receipt of a diagnosis of AS compared with non-immigration status is stark.That being said, we have seen other hints that when an offspring diagnosis on the autism spectrum is received where parents are immigrants from certain parts of the world to certain other parts of the world, there is a greater tendency towards autism plus learning disability to be present. I've covered it a few times on this blog (see here for example based on data from Sweden). The chatter a while back about the Somali population living in Minneapolis also came to something of a similar conclusion (see here).The growing idea that autism might be better reflected as a plural condition - 'the autisms' - over and above the singular definition currently being applied to cover some significant heterogeneity across presentation, potentially receives some valuable support from research such as this. Obviously, one has to tread carefully if and when labelling a type of autism potentially linked to something like immigrant status so as not to stereotype or fuel some viewpoints. That being said, there are perhaps quite a few studies to do comparing autism in immigrant children vs. non-immigrant autism presentation which might yet provide some valuable information to autism research in general.Music then: Taylor Swift - We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together. Although another band did talk about something similar a few years earlier: Beautiful South - A Little Time (and with a much better video).----------[1] Lehti V. et al. Parental migration and Asperger's syndrome. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2014 Nov 8.[2] Lehti V. et al. The risk of childhood autism among second-generation migrants in Finland: a case-control study. BMC Pediatr. 2013 Oct 19;13:171.----------Lehti V, Cheslack-Postava K, Gissler M, Hinkka-Yli-Salomäki S, Brown AS, & Sourander A (2014). Parental migration and Asperger's syndrome. European child & adolescent psychiatry PMID: 25381114... Read more »

Lehti V, Cheslack-Postava K, Gissler M, Hinkka-Yli-Salomäki S, Brown AS, & Sourander A. (2014) Parental migration and Asperger's syndrome. European child . PMID: 25381114  

  • November 24, 2014
  • 12:05 AM

Experiences With Workplace Bullying Among Athletic Trainers in the Collegiate Setting

by Jane McDevitt in Sports Medicine Research (SMR): In the Lab & In the Field

Among athletic trainers working in a college setting 14% reported that they were bullied, and 20% reported that they witnessed bullying. There were no differences between who experienced bullying, but most of the bullying perpetrators were males with the majority being coaches.... Read more »

  • November 23, 2014
  • 11:49 PM

Do you play disc-golf? Did you ever consider your environmental impact?

by Ashley D in The Average Visitor

Back when I lived in Wisconsin, one of my closest friends was the physical education teacher at the school I worked at. At some point during our friendship he invited me to play “disc-golf” with him one day after school.  At the time I had absolutely no clue what he was asking me to do […]... Read more »

Yu-Fai Leung, Chelsey Walden-Schreiner, Craig Matisoff, Michael Naber, & . (2010) A two-pronged approach to evaluating environmental concerns of disc golf as emerging recreation in urban natural areas. Managing Leisure, 18(4). info:/

  • November 23, 2014
  • 02:09 PM

Love, it’s in your genes

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Most kids worry about passing tests, winning games, lost phones, fractured bones—and whether or not they will ever really fall in love. While the first few things are of relatively low value in the scientific pursuit, three Chinese researchers have focused on that last question. All in a bid to find out some of the more interesting questions about our genes: Why do some students stay single? What factors determine if a young adult falls in love?... Read more »

  • November 23, 2014
  • 10:52 AM

Ampulex compressa: The Wasp That Turns Cockroaches Into Zombies

by beredim in Strange Animals

Jewel WaspBy Muhammad Mahdi Karim (Own work) [GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia CommonsKingdom: AnimaliaPhylum: ArthropodaClass: InsectaOrder: HymenopteraSuborder: ApocritaSuperfamily: ApoideaFamily: AmpulicidaeGenus: AmpulexSpecies: Ampulex compressaCommon Name(s): Emerald cockroach wasp or jewel waspThe Emerald cockroach wasp is best known for its unusual parasitoid reproductive behavior, which among other includes stinging and injecting a cockroach with mind controlling toxins and using its live body as a host for its larvae.While a number of venomous wasps and other organisms paralyze prey as live food for their young, the Jewel wasp is different in that it initially leaves the roach mobile and modifies its behavior in a truly unique way.But let's take everything from the start.It was back in 1940s when researchers first noticed that female jewel wasps sting the Australian cockroach (Periplaneta australasiae) twice, first on the thorax and then on the head. In 2003, a study using radioactive labeling revealed that the wasp stings precisely into specific ganglia of the cockroach.The first sting is delivered to the prothoracic ganglion. The injected venom mildly and reversibly paralyzes the front legs of the victim, inducing temporal and partial loss of mobility for the next 2-3 minutes.When the roach is paralyzed and less dangerous, comes a second, more precise sting, this time right into the victim's brain, to the sub-esophageal ganglion which controls walking, the escape reflex and other mobility-related functions. As a result of the second sting, the cockroach begins to groom extensively, becomes sluggish and fails to show normal escape responses.Jewel Wasp stinging a cockroach in the head.Credit: Ram Gal & Frederic Libersat The venom doesn’t actually affect the general motor skills of the roach. It can still run away, but it "thinks" that there's no reason to do so as the venom apparently inhibits the desire to move around, flee from potential danger and even react to pain. The cockroach is essentially now in a zombified state with no free will.The wasp then proceeds by chewing off half of the victims antennae, most probably to replenish fluids by drinking the hemolymph, the insect version of blood that’s packed with sugars and proteins.The wasp, which is too small to carry the roach, then leads the victim to the wasp's burrow, by pulling it from one of the two antennae, much like a dog on a leash. Once there, the wasp lays a white egg, about 2 mm long, on the roach's abdomen. The wasp exits the burrow and proceeds to block the entrance with pebbles, more to keep other predators out than to keep the cockroach in.With the escape reflex disabled, the now zombified cockroach simply rests in the burrow. After 3 days the fun begins. The egg hatches and the larva feeds for the next 4–5 days from the cockroach's tissue. Then it chews its way inside the abdomen and proceeds to live as an endoparasitoid in the still alive cockroach. Over the next 8 days, the wasp larva consumes the roach's internal organs in an order that maximizes the likelihood that the roach will stay alive, at least until the larva enters the pupal stage and forms a cocoon inside the host's body. Eventually, the fully grown wasp will emerge from the roach's body, much like an alien chestburster, and begin its adult life. Related Facts- It takes about 15 seconds for the wasp to locate and sting the head in the correct spot- Studies have shown the wasp actively searches for the sub-esophageal ganglion during the second sting. When researchers removed the part of the cockroach’s brain that the wasp normally stings they found out that the wasp will continue stinging the cockroach for up to 3 minutes in various spots, trying to find it. However, if the sub-esophageal ganglia is spared but the nerve is cut, the wasp is fooled and stings like it normally does.- Researchers have developed an antidote for the venom, which allows the cockroach to exhibit more normal behavior after being stung. Furthermore, they also have found that if other areas of the cockroach’s brain are administered with the venom, even areas close to the the sub-esophageal ganglia, there is no major effect on the behavioral patterns of the cockroach.You may also likeTongue-eating louse: The only parasite known to replace one of its host organs with..itselfOphiocordyceps unilateralis: A fungus that turns ants into zombiesRafflesia arnoldii: The plant behind the world's largest flower is actually a parasite that can't even photosynthesize!Worm emerges from a dead spider: This video will give you nightmares for many nights to comeVideo on the topic by History ChannelReferences & Further Reading- Williams, F. X. (1942) "Ampulex compressa (Fabr.), a cockroach-hunting wasp introduced from New Caledonia into Hawaii". Proc. Hawaiian Entomological Society, 11:221–233.- Haspel, G., Rosenberg, L., & Libersat, F. (2003). Direct injection of venom by a predatory wasp into cockroach brain Journal of Neurobiology, 56 (3), 287-292 DOI: 10.1002/neu.10238- Moore EL, Haspel G, Libersat F, & Adams ME (2006). Parasitoid wasp sting: a cocktail of GABA, taurine, and beta-alanine opens chloride channels for central synaptic block and transient paralysis of a cockroach host. Journal of neurobiology, 66 (8), 811-20 PMID: 16673394- ... Read more »

  • November 22, 2014
  • 03:01 PM

Habitual Facebook Users: Suckers for Social Media Scams?

by Wiley Asia Blog in Wiley Asia Blog - Social Science

A new study finds that habitual use of Facebook makes individuals susceptible to social media phishing attacks by criminals, likely because they automatically respond to requests without considering how they are connected with those sending the requests, how long they have known them, or who else is connected with them.

Predictors of habitual use of Facebook include frequent interactions with the platform, a large number of friend connections, and individuals’ inability to regulate their social media consumption.

“Social media phishing is the attack vector of choice among cyber criminals and has been implicated in crimes ranging from home invasion to cyber bullying, illegal impersonation of individuals and organization, and espionage,” said Dr. Arun Vishwanath, author of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication study.... Read more »

  • November 22, 2014
  • 02:45 PM

Mental Health- The invisible barrier for women’s care

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

A while back I wrote a post about mental health and jail sentences, it seems like no one takes mental health seriously and that leads to lack of care for the individual. Well a new study offers even more bad news on the mental health front. Women with symptoms of serious mental illness are significantly less likely to receive three routine cancer screenings – Pap tests, mammograms and clinical breast exams – than women in the general population, despite being at elevated risk for medical comorbidities and early death, a new study indicates.... Read more »

  • November 22, 2014
  • 10:32 AM

Hammerhead Slug: World's Largest Flatworm

by beredim in Strange Animals

Bipalium kewenseNotice the distinctive hammer-like headBy Ajaykuyiloor (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia CommonsKingdom: AnimaliaPhylum: PlatyhelminthesClass: TurbellariaOrder: TricladidaSuborder: ContinenticolaFamily: GeoplanidaeSubfamily: BipaliinaeGenus: BipaliumSpecies: Bipalium kewenseCommon Names: Hammerhead slug, Greenhouse PlanarianNicknamed as the "hammerhead slug" due to its half-moon shaped head, Bipalium kewense is not your everyday flat worm. Not only does it hold the record for world's largest flatworm but it's also one of the few flatworms that live on land. Oh, did I mention that it defecates from its mouth?Distribution & HabitatThe hammerhead slug is believed to originate from Southeast Asia. However, it appears that the species has become cosmopolitan with recordings coming from many different tropical and subtropical countries. It's especially common in greenhouses, thus its second common name, the "greenhouse planarian".The species has been found spanning the entire southern portion of North America. Verified recordings include: Encanto, California Jersey City, New Jersey Nashua, New Hampshire New Orleans & Baton Rouge, Louisiana Puerto Rico, near Silver Springs Savannah, Georgia Urbana, Ohio Washington DCBipalium kewense is also common in the Hawaiian Islands and in the tropical parts of South America. It has also been sighted in the UK, China, Japan, New Zealand and many other countries. This widespread occurrence is the result of horticultural practices, mainly the commercial dispersion of potted plants.Like earthworms, hammerhead slugs prefer to burrow in moist soil. DescriptionFully mature adults routinely reach 40 cm (10 in) in length, with the maximum recorded length being about 60 cm (23 in). The body is covered by a layer of mucus that prevents it from losing too much water to the environment. The mucus is also important for locomotion.They usually come in dark colors, like gray, brown and black and have two distinctive dorsal stripes that run the length of the body. One of the species' weirdest traits is the half-moon shaped head. The mouth is located mid-way down the body (on the ventral side) which also serves as the.. anus since they don't have one. Yum! They also have no respiratory and circulatory system, skeleton and legs.Hammerhead slug, crossing a road near Hilo, Hawaii.By Dick Culbert from Gibsons, B.C., Canada (Bipalium kewense, a Hammerhead Worm.) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia CommonsDietThe Hammerhead slug is predatory, primarily feeding on earthworms although it will turn to cannibalism when food is scarce. The species dietary patterns have not been extensively studied, and it possibly feeds on other organisms, like slugs and insect larvae.To eat, it will follow trails left behind by earthworms until it finds one. When prey is caught, it will lay atop of it, as the sticky slime helps to hold it down to the soil. Then it protrudes its pharynx and sucks out the body fluid of the earthworm. Surely, not a good way to die..Hammerhead slug attacking an earthwormReproductionBipalium kewense is hermaphroditic (like all Bipalium species) and capable of both asexual and sexual reproduction. However, the latter has rarely been observed and apparently fragmentation is the preffered form of reproduction. This is done by chipping off about 1cm of the tail. The tip first attaches itself to something in the soil, and then the parent worm pulls away. The new worm can move immediately and develops a head within 10 days. As for sexual reproduction, they lay eggs in a bright red cocoon. After one day the cocoon turns black and the eggs hatch about 20 days later, depending on temperature and moisture conditions.Is it dangerous?Over half of all known flatworm species (Platyhelminthes) are parasitic and some do enormous harm to humans and their livestock. However, this is not the case with the majority of the flatworms in the Turbellaria class, including B. kewense.Production of Tetrodotoxin  Tetrodotoxin (or TTX) is a potent neurotoxin that among others induces paralysis. Recent research revealed that Bipalium kewense and the closely related B. adventitium have small amounts of it in their body, most probably used during predation to subdue large prey items. As of 2014, they remain the only known terrestrial invertebrates capable of producing this toxin.Interesting and Weird Facts Sum-Up- Half-moon shaped head- Mouth also serves as anus- All individuals are hermaphroditic and capable of sexual and asexual reproduction. They usually reproduce by chipping a small part of the tail- It is considered a pest to farmers because they predate on earthworms- Non-parasitic, harmless to humans- Along with the closely related B adventitium, the only known terrestrial invertebrate to produce the Tetrodotoxin toxin- First described in 1878, from a greenhouse at Kew Botanical Gardens near London, England.You may also likeIllacme plenipes - World's leggiest creatureScientists Create Alcohol-Resistant Worms That Might Cure AlcoholismMexican Mole Lizard: Strange lizard-worm-snake Like CreatureReferences & Further Reading- L. Winsor (1981). The taxonomy, zoogeography and biology of Bipalium kewense Moseley, 1878 (Tricladida, Terricola) Hydrobiologia, 84 (1), 17-17 DOI: 10.1007/BF00026158- ... Read more »

  • November 22, 2014
  • 09:10 AM

Science Identifies The Catchiest Songs Ever – Did Your Favorite Make The List?

by Bill Sullivan in The 'Scope

Using science, researchers are studying what makes songs catchy as a way to understand learning and memory. Did your favorite song make the list? ... Read more »

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