I just wanted to share this beautiful picture of our plumeria that finally bloomed last summer after 3 years!
Springtail (Folsomia candida) in patch of moss (Ceratodon purpureus). Photo by Rocky Cookus, Portland State University (Phys.org)
Researchers at Portland State University have discovered how mosses can use chemical cues to recruit small creatures to help with fertilization, via a process similar to pollination in flowering plants.
In a new study published by Nature, the team found that despite a lack of sweet smelling flowers, mosses produce scents than can entice primitive insects (microarthropods) called springtails to help spread the plants’ sperm. The study, “Sex-specific volatile compounds influence microarthropod-mediated fertilization of moss,” was released this week.
Sarah Eppley, lead author, and her PSU colleagues have shown that female mosses release scents like those of flowering plants, to which springtails are attracted. In doing so, the microarthropods that inhabit these mosses transfer sperm from male to female plants and thus increase fertilization rates substantially.
“We were extremely surprised to find such an amazing array of scents in female mosses, and finding that the springtails were in fact acting like pollinators means we must totally rethink our understanding of plant-animal interactions in moss ecology,” said Eppley.
Before this study, moss reproduction was primarily thought to depend on individual sperm swimming through a water layer between male and female plants. Though recent research has hinted that microarthropods help disperse sperm in mosses, nothing was known about whether moss plants, like flowering plants, also use chemical signals to entice animal visitation.
As part of research into species that live in “extreme” environments, Eppley and Rosenstiel, both faculty members of PSU’s Center for Life in Extreme Environments, have studied mosses for years. Mosses are one of the most adaptive species on Earth and one of the few found on all seven continents, including Antarctica. The mosses used in this study are “what grows on our rooftops here in Portland,” which are fairly hostile environments for plant life, Rosenstiel said.
Working with James Pankow, the team analyzed the biogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) of the mosses, essentially creating a unique chemical profile of the plants’ emissions. The results showed distinct “scents” for male and female mosses. Development of new state-of-the-art approaches for measuring VOCs at PSU enabled the discovery of this unknown pollination-like syndrome.
Mosses and microarthropods represent two of Earth’s most ancient terrestrial lineages, dating back at least 450 million years. These results suggest that microarthropods not only likely impact the ecology of mosses found throughout Portland and the Pacific Northwest but that these microscopic friends may have played a key role in shaping the evolution of plants, ultimately leading to the many insect-pollinated crops on which humans have come to rely.
Funding for this research was provided by 3M Corporation and the National Science Foundation. More information: www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature11330.html , DOI: 10.1038/nature11330 Provided by Portland State University
Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-07-friends-benefits-insects-aid-moss.html#jCp
This was one of the questions that the Oregonian News Network asked The Bug Chicks:
“Q. Biggest pet peeve?
Kristie: Sometimes when we tell someone what we do for a living, filled with enthusiasm for teaching about insects, smiles on our faces, a spring in our step, the person will say something like, “Oh god I hate insects. They’re so gross. I try to kill them whenever possible. Yuck, how can you do that? I would never do that job.” That’s fine, we get it! People like that are the reason we teach! But sometimes it feels a bit rude. For example, I would never say to an accountant, “Oh god, numbers. How dull. You add them and subtract them? Ugh, that sounds like a horrible way to spend the majority of your time.” We would never be rude or disparaging to someone about their chosen profession. (Private note to our CPA: We love you and your work is necessary and vital and you are an interesting and cool dude. Numbers rock.)”
Here is the link to the entire interview:http://www.oregonlive.com/news-network/index.ssf/2012/03/featured_blog_partner_qa_with_7.html
I find this hilarious considering that I have an Accounting & Finance degree, worked as an accountant for the last 3 years and am now getting a degree in entomology (at Texas A&M - the Bug Chicks’ alma mater)!
This January Jason (the hubby) and I started our first semester as Entomology students at Texas A&M University! I can’t believe that we are already halfway through the semester - time sure flies! I started this blog to keep track of my amateur entomology hobby that kept me sane while working as a tax accountant (and because I was inspired by buggirl’s awesome tumblr). I put off posting because of the career/life change & move, but I still can’t believe I waited this long to start recording all of the exciting insect finds & insect information I have been learning in my entomology classes! I am so behind!
Insects are small, and therefore, difficult to dissect. We filled a petri dish with water and stuck it in soft wax so that when the wax hardens it holds the animal in place so you can learn all about its internal anatomy.
Great tip for dissections!
Lygodium Spider Moth (Siamusotima aranea, Musotiminae, Crambidae)
This recently described moth (originally from Thailand in 2005) is called the Lygodium Spider Moth because it feeds on Lygodium species, an invasive Old World climbing fern, and has markings that look like a spider (possibly mimicry to protect it from predators).
This moth has risen to significance because of it’s appetite for the Lygodium ferns, which have developed as an invasive weed that threatens Florida’s wetlands, and hence it’s potential as a biological control agent.
While there are many stem-boring moths, S. aranea is the first to be identified among fern-feeders in Asia. The moth is unique in a number of ways. For one, its caterpillar form looks more like some beetle larvae. The moth has armored segments on its rear similar to those on beetles but unlike anything seen before in a moth. And the adult moth may mimic spiders, a characteristic that has led to its scientific name, “aranea,” as well as its unofficial moniker.
This discovery expands possibilities for biological control of the Old World climbing fern in the United States. The plant is not a pest in its native Australia, South and Southeast Asia, and Africa, perhaps because its enemies keep it in check there.
Pu’er, Yunnan, China
See more Chinese moths on my Flickr site HERE…..
Common Ground Mantis (Eremiaphila braueri)
…is a small species of mantis that has adapted for desert life in the harsh middle eastern deserts. It like other members of its genus is a light brown color with a short thorax and abdomen. Sadly this species is poorly researched and not much is known about their biology.
The Goliath stick insect (Eurycnema goliath) is the second largest stick insect(after the Titan stick insect) in Australia, and though not as long, the insect has a heavier, sturdier build. The first instar of a nymph is small, brown, and ant-like, without wings, however the adult insects are green and yellow, though colors can slightly vary, are very large, and have wings. Both sexes of the Goliath stick insect are apple green with hints of gold, purple, red and yellow. Colourful patterns on the underside of the wings of Goliaths are used as a defence tactic in order to ward off predators. The females can reach lengths of up to 20 cm. The eggs of the Goliath stick insect look like seeds, so that common ants may take them underground, allowing them to hatch in safety. Males are smaller, slimmer, and darker in color as compared to females. While both sexes have wings, only the lightweight males can fly, as the females have a large, heavy abdomen which gives them limited, if any flight.[ read more ]
I really need to visit Australia…
Cicadas’ Cycles Control Their Predators
by Virginia Morell
Periodical cicadas have such a strange life cycle that some have argued they can count, and have a particular affinity for prime numbers. That’s because their broods emerge after lengthy periods of time; in North America, they appear en masse from underground every 13 or 17 years.
Now, two researchers argue that the cicadas’ cycles are timed to “engineer” the numbers of a mortal enemy—predatory birds. Contrary to what one might expect, these birds’ populations drop significantly the year cicadas emerge in all their buzzing glory, the scientists report in the current issue of The American Naturalist…
(read more: Science NOW) (photo: ARS/USDA)