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The Sani Project (VI)

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Joined: 02 Mar 2010
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Location: Canada

PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2017 7:32 am    Post subject: The Sani Project (VI) Reply with quote

- “All I’m offering is the truth, nothing more.

You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe, whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes." -

“Excellent follow m…wait a minute…God, you took the blue pill didn’t you?! Gah, this is exactly why you need a good publicist”.

From the cockroach blog that might just change your mind on these misunderstood creatures and quite possibly even make you question the very nature of reality itself...

"He's a bubble boy".
"A bubble boy?"
"Yes, a bubble boy".
"What's a bubble boy?"
"He lives in a bubble."

A Dryinid is almost ready to emerge from a transparent cocoon. Mantis-like in form, the Dryinid is actually a wasp. Its raptorial forearms have been modified into pincers which immobilize their hemipteran prey. But these prey are not given a quick, painless death. Far from it. No, the Dryinid wasp doesn't eat the hemipterans it captures, rather they will serve as the hosts for their young. Sometimes the bubble keeps the world out, other times, it keeps the predators in...

"You'll never be just a stink bug to me...he whispered softly into her ear".
"What? What is wrong with you? You're sleeping on the couch tonight."

I once fancied myself a novelist, and thought I might give Danielle Steele and run for her money. Somehow my attempts to write romance, always ended up with insect references. The fact that I hardly noticed, and still thought that it was romantic gold, is matter of long standing debate between me and my psychiatrist.

With great beauty comes great odour. Glandular secretions of aldehydes, sometimes laced with cyanide or other potentially toxic compounds are released when disturbed, earning it the common name, stink bug. But not to me...never to me...:

"You'll never be just an Ecuadorian poison arrow frog (Ameerega bilinguis) to me", he whispered softly into her ear..."

Gah, writer's block!

Poison arrow frogs are one of the true delights of the rainforest, and they bring together the houses - "Griffindor" - the mammal seekers, Slytherin - the herpetologists, Ravenclaw- the birdwatcher's and Hufflepuff - the losers...no, I mean...yeah, sorry they are kinda losers (I mean a badger as your emblematic crest, you couldn't do any better?). They are a delight to all is what I'm trying to say, and it's no wonder why. Colourful and charismatic. But there is still a fair bit of misinformation that surrounds these little jewels.

The poison in the poison arrow frogs is not uniform across all groups. There are approximately 28 different classes of lipophilic alkaloids (Batrachotoxins, pumiliotoxins, etc...), each with different attributes, and different levels of toxicity. It is this very biochemical diversity which has lent itself to potential therapeusis, ranging from non-addictive painkillers, to heart stimulants and muscle relaxants.

The Genus Phyllobates has the highest LD50 (Lethal dose in 50% of the population, a reproducible and quantifiable measure used in the laboratory to indicate toxicity) poison amongst the poison arrow frogs (and one of the most potent animal toxins in the world). This genus is the one that gives these frogs their name, and fearsome reputation. However, the majority of poison arrow frogs are only mildly toxic to humans, and the lipophilic nature of their alkaloids means that the poisons must be rubbed into ones eyes or mucosal membranes, ingested, or find ingress in a wound. Simply touching these organisms is usually insufficient to poison.

"But my Dad, Uncle, Best friend - told me that if you simply touch a poison arrow frog you can die".
-Did they belong to Hufflepuff? Yes, the golden poison arrow is said to kill by simply touching it. I haven't tested this and think that it is more a case of the sheer toxicity and low LD50 necessary to poison, and thus micro-scratching of the skin's surface would present a form of entry. I imagine that It would have to possess additional chemical constituents enabling the poison to migrate across the skin, which represents a rather significant barrier.

Moreover, the poison is secreted through glands in the back and behind the head in response to a threat. Since poisons/venoms are expensive to produce, they are only used when danger is perceived. This is why you might see poison arrow frogs hopping along someone's arm with no apparent harm coming to that person.
We discussed earlier 'de novo' vs. biomagnification of biochemical constituents to be used in toxic sequestration (specifically in the case of the ithomiine/heliconiidae). It is much the same here. Poison arrow frogs obtain the toxic alkaloids which form the structural basis of their poisons from their diet, ants and termites mostly.

So whether you're a Griffindor and appreciate the beauty, the Ravenclaw, appreciating the biology and biochemical complexity, the slytherin who makes it their purpose to study these organisms, or the Hufflepuff...honestly, I don't why you're still here...these amphibians are beauty. They are complexity. And they are hope for both the rainforest, and ourselves.

See more rainforest jewels at #amphibansofSani.

This mushroom was like an optical illusion. However I twisted and turned the leaf it was on, it flipped around, and seemed intent on escaping. Well, fine then!

Then, as I tried to keep it in frame, it would sway with the gentlest breeze, defying close focus. Well, Fine then!

Finally, just when I thought I had it in perfect focus, and frame, it inexplicably dropped from the leaf. I threw up my hands. WELL FINE THEN!

One doesn't usually characterize fungi as charismatic, but this was one little monkey of a mushroom!
See more charismatic #FungiofSani.

Ants are legion. One element glossed over in some accounts of ant ecology, is how being part of a large colony opens up prey type and range.

-"Ummmmm, no, I think that's fairly well covered!"
-"Why don't you go write another cockroach blog that nobody is going to read!"
-"Go to hell loser!"

Whoa! This internet generation, so impatient, and full of hostility, won't even let me get a sentence out! Talk about escalation! What I was saying was, this is fairly evident when it comes to subduing larger prey. However, less so when speaking of overcoming prey defences. Observe.

An ant encounters a snail. The ant which uses mostly chemosensory cues determines that the snail has a satisfactory biochemical profile to warrant bringing back to the nest. The snail, not so thrilled with the invitation. However, it is not quite as defenceless as it might appear. Although it has an operculum (a thin 'door' which it uses to seal itself within its shell, which serves as both self-defence and moisture preservation), many predators are either able to physically overpower this passive defence, or else find their way around it. After a certain 'threat threshold' has been reached, a point where the threat is deemed sufficiently serious to warrant elevation of defensive response, the snail releases a foam. This foam is dual purpose. Not only is it an additional physical barrier to predators (it is also a different type. Sticky, liquid barriers are very effective at preventing chewing, biting mouthparts by gumming them up), but it may also be laced with distasteful compounds to further deter predators. Many times this is the end of the story. The snail slimes off, not much the worse for wear, and the predator is forced to find an alternative meal. But the ant is not just an ant. It is a colony. A superorganism. One ant would never be able to overcome such a defence but 10, 50, a 100? As one ant's mouthparts become gummed up, another takes its place. Little by little, headway is made. The foam is removed, and the now defenceless snail, well let's just call it by it's french moniker- escargot.

-"You still suck!"

God, there's just no winning is there!

You might say. "Hey, you've already posted a picture of Hypsiboas punctatus! Why, in the endless diversity that is #Sanilodge are you giving us the same old $h*t!?!"

To which I first respond, "Why you ungrateful little $^#$%#"

Then after a moment's self-reflection and brutal honestly I come to the epiphany... I need the likes, the shares. The dopamine rush of your support and adulation, these lowly cockroach posts just aren't doing it for me!

This also just so happens to illustrate the transition in time from green to red in a single individual. But you know, mostly the star, fandom thing.

See more amazing #amphibiansofSani.:

A limited English vocabulary coupled with a very basic understanding of entomology means that I often have conversations like the following with my understudy:

"Is that Katydid dangerous?"
"No, why would you say that?"
"Because it has an #####-knife"
"Excuse me?"
"A knife "(Followed by a gesture to his #####).
After a face palm..."hmmm...you're right, it's not messing around, it will cut you good. Better keep your distance".

Female leaf -mimicking katydid brandishes a scimitar to keep photographers at bay, or an ovipositor to cut into the cambrium of the plant and deposit eggs. Really 6 of one, half a dozen of the other though:

What's in a name?

A brown vine or liana snake, or is it a common sharp-nosed snake? Common names pose an inherent danger of mis-communication. They often rely on physical characteristics that may or may not be polymorphic within a population, and thus your green vine snake and brown vine snake may be one and the same species. Moreover, different cultures, languages, geographical ranges, etc... a huge variety of obfuscating factors make common names unreliable, which is why whenever possible the binomial latin name is preferred. Philodryas argentea, ah, much clearer...Or is it Xenoxybelis argenteus...hmmmm...

Taxonomy isn't necessarily a field that you would think experiences revolutionary advances, however, to a discipline which once relied on observation, physiological determinants, natural history and more recently, advances in microscopy, genetics has done just that. However, this has also opened up a whole new set of questions and dilemmas. Reconciling earlier identifications with new genetic analyses which may not square. Genetics is not just an additional tool in the kit of scientific methodology, it is a usurper, and many other perfectly valid, and important tools have fallen out of favour as a result.

Moreover, the definition of species, ironically, seems to be evolving with our new tools. The old definition of a distinct population which lives, and reproduces together to produce viable offspring is under attack. Genetic homologies are finding more and more support. And yet, the variability of the gene pool within a breeding population is a difficult thing to separate from marker genes for a species. To a certain extent, this is a line in the sand.

There is no argument that genetics is a valuable and powerful tool which can parse out differences and provide a degree of exactitude beyond morphological observation, to the very base-pair essence of an individual. This is reductionism. It is amazing the degree of detail it can provide, but it is dangerous, and its risks are glossed over in academia in the pell-mell pursuit down the rabbit hole to publish, always something new, always new knowledge (regardless of its merit). As one starts describing genes, quarks, gluons, the stuff that make up life, one becomes gradually more and more removed from what life actually is. Are we more than the sum of our parts? Perhaps in our quest for knowledge, our dissection of life, we have killed the patient and our post-mortem is not as close to "Truth" as we thought. Nowadays, specialization, often to an absurd degree is the norm. Rare is the renaissance man, the polymath. Nature doesn't have separate classrooms for physics, biology, chemistry, etc...it is all in the open air, messy and wonderful.

And so what's in a name? - Apparently a convoluted history of contending ideologies, convictions, descriptions, and emotions.

If you'd like to follow the project, more stories, more photos, tears, laughs, the gamut of human emotion, follow here: https://www.facebook.com/paul.bertner

Thanks for looking and commenting,
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Joined: 21 Nov 2015
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 10:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As always, the pictures and the writing are gems. Thank you.
Mark Sturtevant
Dept. of Still Waters
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Posts: 1085
Location: Vallentuna, Stockholm, Sweden

PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 12:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very Happy Made my day!
Best regards
Jörgen Hellberg
Jörgen Hellberg, my webbsite www.hphoto.se
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