Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Orchids - The original sexual predators


I know it may seem odd to call a plant a sexual predator, but, in fact, as I learned reading the September issue of National Geographic recently, it's true. The article, Love and Lies, talks about how some species of orchids have evolved to exploit the sexual tendencies of other species of animals in order to increase pollination.
Now, not every species of orchid uses the lust of other species to increase pollination. Some orchids have evolved to mimic other species, some have evolved to mimic appealing smells. But some... Well, I'll let author Michael Pollan explain the method used by one particular flower...

In the case of this particular Ophrys, that animal is a relative of the bumblebee. The orchid offers no nectar or pollen reward; rather, it seduces male bees with the promise of bee sex and then insures its pollination by frustrating precisely the desire it has excited. The orchid accomplishes its sexual deception by mimicking the appearance, scent, and even the tactile experience of a female bee. The flower, in other words, traffics in something very much like metaphor: This stands for that. Not bad for a vegetable.

Pretty ingenious, right? The flower mimics the female of the species, attracting the male. The male flies along, looking for a pretty girl, spots the flower, and then... ahem... starts some romance. While he's busy romancing, the flower plants two sticky sacks of pollen onto his back. The male eventually becomes frustrated, and flies off, taking the pollen with him, which he'll deposit the next time he finds what he thinks is a lovely lady.

I bet you never knew flowers were so conniving.

Photo used courtesy of Samantha Allen Photography.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ida, Google, and Christians

@reddit: Christians find today's Google logo "disgusting". One says "It made me want to throw my laptop". http://ow.ly/86qy

It looks like some Christians aren't feeling too fond of Google using an image of Ida in place of their logo today. Tip picked up via Twitter.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Harvard Museum of Natural History


Recently, a few friends and I took a trip to the Harvard Museum of Natural History. It was a great trip and I'd recommend the museum to anyone interested in science. One of my companions, Samantha Allen, is a professional photographer and she took the picture above. Click on the picture or here to view the rest of our pictures.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I swear I'll start blogging about something other than leeches and cockroaches soon...

The world's largest leech, named Grandma Moses, was 18 inches long, according to this website. Once discovered, she produced more than 750 offspring and inspired more than 45 papers and publications.

Can cockroaches really live in ears? Yes, they can.

My favorite part is when he talks about the fact that one hospital in Japan recommends not telling patients they have cockroaches in their ears, so the patients don't panic.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I want to go!

Finding Your Inner Fish
Exhibition Opening Lecture by Neil Shubin
Thursday, April 16, 6:00 pm
University of Chicago paleontologist Neil Shubin made headlines with the recent discovery of the 375-million-year-old fossil remains of Tiktaalik roseae—dubbed the “missing link” between fish and land animals. To celebrate the opening of EVOLUTION, the museum's new permanent exhibition, Shubin will discuss the evolutionary baggage that we carry in our genetic lineage that originated in earlier animals.

The Tiktaalik roseae was discovered in 2004 by Shubin and his colleagues, Dr. Ted Daeschler (The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia) and Dr. Farish A. Jenkins Jr. (Harvard University). Shubin hold several titles at the University of Chicago including Robert R. Bensley Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy. Free and open to the public in the Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford Street.

For more information, go here.

Count me in

The National Museum of Natural History is offering an interesting new program. According to this article at smithsonian.com, every Wednesday from 1 to 3 PM, one of the organizations scientists is available in Ocean Hall so that visiters can ask questions and learn more about what is going on. The Museum is considering expanding the program to their Dinosaur Hall and African Voices Hall.

I say, count me in. I want to go. I want to learn. On a related note, visiting the Harvard Museum of Natural History is high on my list of things to do. I can't believe I've never been!