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In this News Blog you will news about Brachypelma spp. and other interesting news concerning the smallest among us.

You will also find messages about updates and other things concerning Brachypelma.org here.

After a while it is also possible that I will post some of my notes from my biology studies here, unless they are more relevant in other sections of the site.



ScienceDaily: The Flight of the Bumble Bee: Why Are They Disappearing?

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A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist is trying to learn what is causing the decline in bumble bee populations and also is searching for a species that can serve as the next generation of greenhouse pollinators.

Bumble bees, like honey bees, are important pollinators of native plants and are used to pollinate greenhouse crops like peppers and tomatoes. But colonies of Bombus occidentalis used for greenhouse pollination began to suffer from disease problems in the late 1990s and companies stopped rearing them. Populations of other bumble bee species are also believed to be in decline.

Entomologist James Strange is searching for solutions at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Pollinating Insects -- Biology, Management and Systematics Research Unit in Logan, Utah. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of improving agricultural sustainability.

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ScienceDaily: Tarantula's Double Beating Heart Revealed by MRI

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Researchers have used a specialized Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner on tarantulas for the first time, giving unprecedented videos of a tarantula's heart beating.

"In the videos you can see the blood flowing through the heart and tantalizingly it looks as though there might be 'double beating' occurring, a distinct type of contraction which has never been considered before. This shows the extra value of using a non-invasive technique like MRI," says PhD researcher Gavin Merrifield who is presenting the research at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual Conference in Glasgow.

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ScienceDaily: Borrelia Infection in Ticks in Norway

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The most common tick-borne disease in humans is Lyme borreliosis. Extensive field and laboratory tests have revealed that the Borrelia bacterium is present in a larger proportion of ticks than has been shown by earlier studies. Another finding is that migratory birds play an important role in the spreading of ticks and pathogenic agents borne by ticks.

Ticks are to be found in most parts of the world, and more than 900 species have been identified so far. The geographic distribution of these many tick species varies and the most prevalent species in Norway is the forest tick (Ixodes ricinus), which can be the bearer of a number of bacteria and viruses that can infect animals and humans and cause disease.

In recent years, there has been increasing focus on ticks and the diseases a tick bite can cause and there are also indications that ticks are occurring in new areas of the country. This has resulted in an increase in the number of disease cases, both as regards Lyme borreliosis (LB) and other illnesses such as tick-borne encephalitis (TBE).

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Last Updated on Monday, 27 June 2011 16:00
 

The Journal of Experimental Biology: Tarantulas cling to smooth vertical surfaces by secreting silk from their feet

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SUMMARY

Like all spiders, tarantulas (family Theraphosidae) synthesize silk in specialized glands and extrude it from spinnerets on their abdomen. In one species of large tarantula, Aphonopelma seemanni, it has been suggested that silk can also be secreted from the tarsi but this claim was later refuted. We provide evidence of silk secretion directly from spigots (nozzles) on the tarsi of three distantly related tarantula species: the Chilean rose, Grammostola rosea; the Indian ornamental, Poecilotheria regalis; and the Mexican flame knee, Brachypelma auratum, suggesting tarsal silk secretion is widespread among tarantulas. We demonstrate that multiple strands of silk are produced as a footprint when the spider begins to slip down a smooth vertical surface. The nozzle-like setae on the tarsi responsible for silk deposition have shanks reinforced by cuticular thickenings, which serve to prevent the shanks' internal collapse while still maintaining their flexibility. This is important as the spigots occur on the ventral surface of the tarsus, projecting beyond the finely divided setae of the dry attachment pads. We also reveal the structure and disposition of the silk-secreting spigots on the abdominal spinnerets of the three tarantula species and find they are very similar to those from the earliest known proto-spider spinneret from the Devonian period, giving another indication that silk secretion in tarantulas is close to the ancestral condition.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 19 May 2011 09:18
 

ScienceDaily: Spiders in Space: Researchers Observe Arachnid Habits in a Microgravity Environment

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The very idea of spiders in space brings to mind campy, black and white horror films involving eight-legged monsters. In actuality, it is a scientific investigation called Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus Science Insert-05 or CSI-05, in which researchers observe arachnid habits in a microgravity environment. This is the second spider investigation on the International Space Station -- the first was CSI-03 -- and researchers have high hopes that the sequel will eclipse the original.

Scheduled to launch with STS-134, the spider habitat will transfer from the space shuttle Endeavour to the space station. Once aboard, the crew will place the two habitats into the Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus or CGBA. This equipment will maintain a consistent temperature, humidity and lighting cycle for the spiders and their sustenance supply of fruit flies. The CGBA also controls imaging for the investigation.

The spider pair currently planned for investigation with CSI-05 are both golden orb spiders (Nephila clavipes), which spin a three dimensional, asymmetric web. This is different from the two orb spiders (Larinioides patagiatus and Metepeira) that launched to the space station on STS-126, which were selected specifically for the symmetry of their web formation. Scientists are looking to see if and how the arachnids will spin their webs differently in microgravity. The results will help them to understand the behavioral role of gravity for the spiders and their fruit fly companions.

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