Tag Archives: Biology

Kill Them With Cuteness

Bat waggling head
Photo: Johns Hopkins University

Some people would argue that bats are anything but cute. But that is simply because they have never met a bat. Some bats are very adorable. A study in 2016 analyzed a strange and cute mannerism observed in many bats: head waggling. A waggle is when the bat turns its head side to side while looking at something.

“It’s an adorable behavior, and I was curious about the purpose,” said Melville J. Wohlgemuth, a postdoctoral fellow in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. “I wanted to know when bats were doing this and why. It seemed to occur as bats were targeting prey, and that turns out to be the case.”

Read about the study in all its detail over at PLOS Biology.

White Nose Washington

Earlier this year White Nose was discovered for the first time in the Pacific North-west. This is disheartening news.

White Nose Syndrome
Generalized spatiotemporal spread of Pseudogymnoascus destructans across North America since the initial detection of white-nose syndrome (WNS) in New York in 2006. Map from http://msphere.asm.org.

The question begs: what can we do more to prevent this spread? Obviously we can stop visiting caves. But are there steps we can take before we reach that conclusion? What do you think?

From the article:

On 11 March 2016, a moribund little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) was found in King County, WA (United States), and submitted to a local wildlife rehabilitation center. The animal presented with dried and contracted areas of crusted skin on the wings and died 2 days later. Swab samples of the wings were positive for P. destructans by real-time PCR (8), and the bat was confirmed to have WNS in accordance with defined histopathologic criteria (9). An isolate of P. destructanswas obtained by culturing a portion of wing skin on Sabouraud dextrose agar containing chloramphenicol and gentamicin at 13°C.

In eastern North America, P. destructans appears to be spreading clonally, with all isolates exhibiting no genetic diversity at the markers examined (10). However, isolates of the fungus from Europe display significant genetic variation (11). To determine whether the isolate of P. destructans from Washington matched the clonal lineage from eastern North America, we conducted whole-genome sequencing using the Ion Torrent Personal Genome Machine (PGM) on the Washington isolate (NWHC#27099-001), as well as on three additional isolates of P. destructans from eastern North America. These isolates originated from M. lucifugus bats collected in Albany County, NY, in 2008 (NWHC#20631-008) and in Iowa County, WI, in 2016 (NWHC#26994-002) and a tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus) in Jackson County, AL, in 2015 (NWHC#44797-145).

Please read the full report at msphere.org, the online journal for the American Society of microbiology.

 

Blind Cave Fish-inspired Sensor to Regulate IVs

(L-R) Blind cave fish has an uncanny ability to swim adeptly at high speeds underwater without colliding into any surrounding objects. Protruding outside its entire body are hundreds of neuromasts (lateral line system) that detect movement and pressure changes in the surrounding water. Inspiration from this fish has led to the development of these ultra-sensitive, high resolution, low-cost, miniaturised, zero-powered sensors that is the size of a mere speck on a Singapore 5-cents coin. (photo from SMART Press)

Inspired by the blind cave fish, researchers at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) [新加坡-麻省理工学院科研中] have developed Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) flow sensor so tiny and sensitive that it can be implanted into the IV or intravenous set-up, to aid in regulating the velocity of the fluid flow with minimal intervention by the nurses, thereby reducing their workload while increasing their productivity by 30%; and significantly decreasing the complications of drug infusion via IV therapy. These sensors can also be incorporated into marine underwater robots, lending them sensitivities to wakes, akin to the blind cave fish itself, so that the robots can manoeuvre in a highly energy-efficient manner.

Read the full article at SMART Press.