Mike Brooks’ Zombie Ant Survival Guide

So, we have all heard about zombies, yes? Imagining our fellow humans reverting to an almost feral state, searching to consume our brains and/or other major body organs is terrifying to be sure. Luckily for humanity, the undead are not a major issue in our society. For the society of Camponotus Leonardi ant, however, the walking dead threaten their very way of life. Well, maybe it’s not safe to say “dead”, more like “brainwashed”.  The bacterial spore Ophiocordyceps Unilateralis requires very specific conditions to grow, which includes temperature, humidity, and even distance from the ground. To this end, O. Unilateralis infects surrounding ants and soon gains control of their muscular systems. Then, it forces the ant to go to a specific leaf, where the ant bites on in a “death grip”. Eventually, the ant dies, and the fungus inside of it grows to the point where it breaks through the ant’s exoskeleton and releases its spores.

Curiously, ants who manage to detect an infected member of their colony often move it to a different location, away from where it could do the most harm. It appears that, in response to the invasion of O. Unilateralis, ants have developed basic quarantine procedures. Luckily for us humans, The “Zombie Fungus” has not spread to humans yet, and in fact may have some effects against hypoglycemia and tumors. Still, C. Leonardi ants face a scenario every day that most of us can only have nightmares about.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=fungus-makes-zombie-ants

The Truth Behind Why We Yawn!

Have you even wondered why we yawn?  It has never been made truly clear of why we do, but it has often been said that it is related to fatigue or lack of oxygen.  Andrew Gullap, of Princeton University, has proposed a new idea behind why we yawn.  “Yawning causes the walls of the maxillary sinus to expand and contract like a bellows, pumping air onto the brain, which lowers its temperature”, Gullap explained.  Since the brain is so sensitive to temperature, it must stay relatively cool to function correctly which is why this air is being pumped onto the brain. 

In addition to solving the yawning mystery, this study also may reveal the reason why we have sinuses which has also been a mystery to scientists for years.  Understanding the purpose of yawning and the sinuses could also help diagnosing medical conditions such as epilepsy, migraines, and even  insomnia since they are all related to excessive yawning and the temperature regulation of the brain and body.

 

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/11/111115-yawning-mystery-brains-sinuses-health-science/?source=hp_dl2_news_yawning20111116

Muscles Twice As Strong

Have you ever wished you were stronger? Scientists have now found that a tiny inhibitor may be responsible for determining the strength of our muscles. By acting on a genome regulator (NCoR1), they were able to alter the activity of certain genes, creating a strain of mighty mice whose muscles were twice a strong as those of normal mice. By genetically manipulating the offspring of these species, the researchers were able to suppress NCoR1, which normally acts to inhibit the buildup of muscle tissues. In the absence of the inhibitor, the muscle tissue developed much more effectively.

The mice with the mutation became true marathoners, capable of running faster and longer before showing any signs of fatigue. In fact, they were able to cover almost twice the distance run by mice that hadn’t received the treatment. Manipulation on NCoR1 can be use to combat muscle weakness in the elderly, which leads to falls and contributes to hospitalizations and in addition, scientists thinks that this could also be used as a basis for developing a treatment for genetic muscular dystrophy. Scientists have not yet found any harmful side effects with eliminating the NCoR1 receptor from muscle and fat tissues.

 

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111121104509.htm

Birds Can Sing Duets?!

We all know that female birds sing a wonderful tune to the males, luring them in. However, birds located in South America, more specifically the Andes Mountains, it is told that they sing duets with their male mates. A female Warbling Wren begins the song, singing only a few notes until the male bird joins in. Researchers say that the birds alternate singing back and forth so quickly that it seems like only one bird is singing. Say a song had lyrics that went A, B, C, D, the female would start off with the first verse, A, and the male would join in next, singing part B, after that, the birds would switch off singing every other verse. Every time a verse is sung, the wrens shift their heads around and move closer together as the song proceeds. Sometimes the male bird can not keep up with the female resulting in him dropping out of the song for a few notes.

Shark Fin Soup

(Where I got this information from)

Yup, sharks! Just uttering the word is enough to strike fear in most people’s soul to stop them in their tracks and make them all scream “Holy heaven!” but unsurprisingly, there are others who can’t seem to get enough of them! (Shark week people) Some of these folks would feed the sharks, physically touch the sharks, and even swim with the sharks! Why would anyone want to feed sharks, let alone swim with them you ask? Well it’s mainly because they’re cool fishes and they have been here well before dinosaurs; let’s be real, dinosaurs are pretty cool too. Some of the earliest known sharks trace back to some 420 million years ago. Also recently, scientists had found sharks to be pretty useful as well.

Dogfish sharks, to be exact, were recently found to have this “cholesterol-like” compound in their skins that could fight viruses such as dengue fever and hepatitis. This compound is called squalamine and has already been used in clinical trials with no known side effects so far. When this compound enters the human body, it attaches itself to cell membranes and it ejects any previously positively charged proteins that were present because squalamine is positively charged. When virus invades the cells, they assumed there were proteins attached to the cells, and thus attacks them viciously in order to reproduce.  But without the proteins, the virus can’t replicate themselves at all. (Too bad right?)

Some scientists proclaimed that because sharks had squalamine in their system, it helped them adapt and defend against diseases and viruses. This might explain why sharks had existed for so long and had been able to undergo countless “evolutionary processes” to survive half a billion years!

So now the question is: should we kill another living creature in order to acquire an antidote for our own benefit, or try an alternative route to develop and obtain another substance that has the same capabilities as squalamine? Also click on this link: Bazinga!

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