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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: Desperate Female Spiders Fight by Different Rules

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If you thought women's pro wrestling was a cutthroat business, jumping spiders may have them beat. In most animals the bigger, better fighter usually wins. But a new study of the jumping spider Phidippus clarus suggests that size and skill aren't everything -- what matters for Phidippus females is how badly they want to win.

Found in fields throughout North America, nickel-sized Phidippus clarus is a feisty spider prone to picking fights. In battles between males, the bigger, heavier spider usually wins. Males perform an elaborate dance before doing battle to size up the competition. "They push each other back and forth like sumo wrestlers," said lead author Damian Elias of the University of California at Berkeley.

This fancy footwork allows males to gauge how closely matched they are before escalating into a full-blown fight. "Males rarely get to the point where they solve things by fighting," said co-author Carlos Botero of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, NC. "Before the actual fight there's a lot of displaying. This allows them to resolve things without injuring themselves."

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ScienceDaily: Cockroaches Share 'Recommendations' of Best Food Sources, Research Finds

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ver wondered how cockroaches seem to know the best place to grab a meal? New research at Queen Mary, University of London suggests that, just like humans, they share their local knowledge of the best food sources and follow 'recommendations' from others.

It is often striking how little we know about our closest neighbour. Until now, it was assumed that cockroaches forage on their own to find food and water. However, this work shows how groups of the insects seem to make a collective choice about the best food source, explaining why we so commonly find them feeding en masse in the kitchen late at night.

Dr Mathieu Lihoreau from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, explained the potential impact of his research, saying: "Cockroaches cost the UK economy millions of pounds in wasted food and perishable products. Better understanding of how they seek out our food would allow us to develop better pest control measures, which are frequently ineffective and involve the use of insecticides that can have health side-effects."

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ScienceDaily: Investigating How Spiders Spin Their Silk, Researchers Unravel a Key Step

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Five times the tensile strength of steel and triple that of the currently best synthetic fibers: Spider silk is a fascinating material. But no one has thus far succeeded in producing the super fibers synthetically. How do spiders form long, highly stable and elastic fibers from the spider silk proteins stored in the silk gland within split seconds? Scientists from the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) and the University of Bayreuth have now succeeded in unraveling the secret.

They present their results in the current issue of the scientific journal Nature.

"The high elasticity and extreme tensile strength of natural spider silk are unmatched, even by fibers produced from pure spider silk proteins," says Professor Horst Kessler, Carl-von-Linde Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study of the TU Muenchen. That highlights a key question in the artificial production of stable spider silk fibers: How do spiders manage to keep the high concentrations of raw material available in the silk gland, ready to produce the high tensile strength fiber at a moment's notice. Thomas Scheibel has been pursuing the secret of spider silk for years, until 2007 at TUM and since then at the University of Bayreuth.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 May 2010 21:32
 

ScienceDaily: As Monarch Butterflies Journey North, Gardeners Can Help Protect Species, Researcher Says

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It has been a hard winter for Monarch butterflies, according to Chip Taylor, director of Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas. Taylor said that low temperatures, storms and habitat destruction have all threatened the butterflies' overwintering population in Mexico.

"I spend a lot of time fretting over the status of the monarch population and I'm always searching for factors or data that will help me understand the past as a way of predicting the future trends in monarch numbers," Taylor said.

As the butterflies migrate through Texas and continue northward across the Great Plains this spring, Taylor has poured over data from a network of monarch observers, hoping to gauge the well-being of the butterflies. But he said it is difficult to pin down their numbers with precision.

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Migrating Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus plexippus) in central Texas (Credit: David R. Tribble Published under: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported and GNU Free Documentation License)
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Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 08:28
 

ScienceDaily: If Only a Robot Could Be More Like a Cockroach: Insect's Brain Fires out Commands to Walk and Run, Scientists Find

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Studies have indicated that insects rely on their brains to respond to what they feel and see. But for the first time, researchers have shown a direct link between neurons at the center of an insect brain and changes in behavior.

The findings and a video are published online in Current Biology.

A team led by Roy Ritzmann, Case Western Reserve University biology professor, recorded neural activity in the central complex of walking cockroaches -- that in itself is a painstaking first.

They found that in the same area of the brain where visual, chemical and tactile information from the world outside is processed, the firing of neurons is correlated to the insect's stepping rate. That is, cockroaches walk or run when their brains decide to do so.

So what? Well, what if robots could do as much?

"Robots were sent into the World Trade Center after 911," Ritzmann said. "By the time the driver would see an obstacle, they were stuck."

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Last Updated on Friday, 07 May 2010 22:31
 


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