Stocks and News
Home | Week in Review Process | Terms of Use | About UsContact Us
   Articles Go Fund Me All-Species List Hot Spots Go Fund Me
Week in Review   |  Bar Chat    |  Hot Spots    |   Dr. Bortrum    |   Wall St. History
Stock and News: Hot Spots
  Search Our Archives: 
 

 

Dr. Bortrum

 

AddThis Feed Button

http://www.gofundme.com/s3h2w8

 

   

08/23/2006

Praying, Preying and Popping

Two weeks ago, I mentioned encountering a praying mantis at
our local mall. I wondered whether, if the mantis made its way
into the mall, a sparrow that seems to have made a home inside
the mall might eat it. I should have wondered if the praying
mantis would become a preying mantis and turn the tables on the
bird! In the September National Geographic there’s a picture
titled “Bug Eats Bird” taken by Richard Walkup in a yard in
West Chester, Pennsylvania. Sure enough, there’s a praying
mantis (more precisely, a Chinese mantid) hanging down from a
flower. The mantid’s forelegs are grasping a ruby-throated
hummingbird. The preying mantis feasted on the bird until it
was full, then dropped the lifeless bird to the ground. Mantids
can grow to be as long as 5 inches, quite a sizeable insect but,
with its green coloration, it blends in with the vegetation.

Praying mantises may look as though they’re praying with their
forelimbs held out in front of them, but they are described in my
1962 World Book Encyclopedia as “cruel and greedy”. They eat
all kinds of other insects, including garden pests, which make the
mantid a welcome presence for gardeners. However, the female
is indeed cruel and will gobble up her mate if she’s hungry, not
what you expect of what looks like such a pious creature.

I pity that poor surprised hummingbird, hovering while sipping
nectar from the flower, only to be grabbed by the superbly
camouflaged mantid. Apparently, there’s another mantis-related
predator only this is a shrimp – the mantis shrimp. I’m not
familiar with this animal but it had the record for the “swiftest
strike in the animal world”, according to an article by Sarah
Yang on the UC Berkeley Web site. I was led to this site by an
article in the August 22 Star-Ledger. The AP article was by
Randolph Schmid and had the catchy headline “Before you can
say ‘Chomp’ it’s all over”! It seems that an unusual ant, a trap-
door ant known as Odontomachus bauri, has eclipsed the mantis
shrimp’s record.

Regular readers will realize that I’ve been on an ant kick this
summer, partly spurred by my friend Dan in Hawaii, who has a
special interest in ants for some reason. I had decided enough
about ants but this trap-door ant is a fascinating little critter, only
about a third of an inch long and weighing around 12 to 15
milligrams. However, it can close its mandibles at an impressive
78 to 145 miles per hour. The researchers, led by Sheila Patek of
UC Berkeley, claim this is the fastest self-powered predatory
strike in the animal kingdom. Their work was published in the
August 21 electronic issue of the Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences. Purists might point out that falcons strike
at speeds of up to 300 miles an hour but to attain that speed they
have to start at high altitudes and gravity provides a big assist.

This trap-door ant utilizes only the energy stored in its body to
get those mandibles moving and woe unto any insect in their
range. While the speed of closing its mandibles is impressive,
Patek points out that the truly impressive feat is the acceleration.
We hear about cars accelerating to 60 mph in seconds. This trap-
door ant gets its mandibles moving to over a hundred miles an
hour in just 0.23 milliseconds (23 hundred thousandths of a
second)! This corresponds to about a hundred thousand times
the force of gravity. To achieve this impressive performance, the
mandibles are cocked by relatively large muscles in the ant’s
head and are released to spring shut when unlatched.

The trap-door ants in the study are from Costa Rica. Costa Rica
was one stop on our cruise last year and my wife and I chose to
go on an aerial tram through the upper reaches of the rain forest.
It was very interesting but now I’m sorry I didn’t look down at
the ground. Perhaps I would have seen some trap-door ants
engaging in an activity that caused some hilarity in Patek’s lab.
The ants not only use their fast-closing mandibles to nab prey.
They can snap their jaws shut, propelling themselves spinning
into the air as high as 8.3 millimeters and horizontally up to
nearly 40 millimeters. The researchers liken this to a 5-foot-6-
inch tall human jumping 44 feet into the air and traveling
horizontally 132 feet! Get a bunch of the trap-doors together and
they look like popcorn popping.

Two of the researchers, Andrew Suarez of the University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Brian Fisher of the California
Academy of Sciences observed the popcorn-like jumping of a
group of the ants while they were collecting ants for the study in
Costa Rica. They speculate that the group- jumping may be a
defense mechanism to confuse predators. The ants don’t have
any control over their flight pattern and can land on their back or
their head – it doesn’t make any difference. They right
themselves and go on their way.

The ants have evolved this type of escape maneuver in which
they close their mandibles against the ground to send themselves
flying away from an intruder. If the intruder is less intimidating,
the ants may use a “bouncer defense”. In the bouncer mode, the
ant, perhaps with a bunch of its colleagues, goes up to an intruder
and strikes it, closing its jaws. The result is that the ant may get
in a bit of a nip on the intruder but the ant still gets thrown off
(bounces) into the air, though not as far or as high as in the
normal escape jump.

If you’re wondering how they measured all these facets of the
ant’s behavior, the researchers used super high-speed video
cameras filming at 50,000 frames per second. (We watch normal
movies filmed at 24 frames per second.) I’m sure the researchers
will be filming trap-door ants from other areas in Central and
South America. They want to see if ants in other locations have
also evolved the use of fast-closing mandibles for both predatory
and escape purposes.

Enough about predators. Back to West Chester. Sixty years ago,
I was in West Chester and had a much more pleasant visual
experience than watching a hummingbird die in the clutches of a
bug. A college buddy and I were returning to Pennsylvania from
a trip to Atlantic City, where we had enjoyed the beach and
Harry James and his band on the old Steel Pier – no casinos in
those days. We stopped for dinner at a restaurant in West
Chester and at the next table were a half-dozen of the most
beautiful girls we had ever seen. They were contestants in some
sort of beauty contest and would not have been out of place were
they entered in the Miss America contest back in Atlantic City.
It’s the only time I’ve been in West Chester but the memory
lingers on. (When my wife questioned the “most beautiful”
phrase, I pointed out the “had ever seen” phrase signifying most
beautiful to that point in time!)

Allen F. Bortrum



AddThis Feed Button

 

-08/23/2006-      
Web Epoch NJ Web Design  |  (c) Copyright 2016 StocksandNews.com, LLC.

Dr. Bortrum

08/23/2006

Praying, Preying and Popping

Two weeks ago, I mentioned encountering a praying mantis at
our local mall. I wondered whether, if the mantis made its way
into the mall, a sparrow that seems to have made a home inside
the mall might eat it. I should have wondered if the praying
mantis would become a preying mantis and turn the tables on the
bird! In the September National Geographic there’s a picture
titled “Bug Eats Bird” taken by Richard Walkup in a yard in
West Chester, Pennsylvania. Sure enough, there’s a praying
mantis (more precisely, a Chinese mantid) hanging down from a
flower. The mantid’s forelegs are grasping a ruby-throated
hummingbird. The preying mantis feasted on the bird until it
was full, then dropped the lifeless bird to the ground. Mantids
can grow to be as long as 5 inches, quite a sizeable insect but,
with its green coloration, it blends in with the vegetation.

Praying mantises may look as though they’re praying with their
forelimbs held out in front of them, but they are described in my
1962 World Book Encyclopedia as “cruel and greedy”. They eat
all kinds of other insects, including garden pests, which make the
mantid a welcome presence for gardeners. However, the female
is indeed cruel and will gobble up her mate if she’s hungry, not
what you expect of what looks like such a pious creature.

I pity that poor surprised hummingbird, hovering while sipping
nectar from the flower, only to be grabbed by the superbly
camouflaged mantid. Apparently, there’s another mantis-related
predator only this is a shrimp – the mantis shrimp. I’m not
familiar with this animal but it had the record for the “swiftest
strike in the animal world”, according to an article by Sarah
Yang on the UC Berkeley Web site. I was led to this site by an
article in the August 22 Star-Ledger. The AP article was by
Randolph Schmid and had the catchy headline “Before you can
say ‘Chomp’ it’s all over”! It seems that an unusual ant, a trap-
door ant known as Odontomachus bauri, has eclipsed the mantis
shrimp’s record.

Regular readers will realize that I’ve been on an ant kick this
summer, partly spurred by my friend Dan in Hawaii, who has a
special interest in ants for some reason. I had decided enough
about ants but this trap-door ant is a fascinating little critter, only
about a third of an inch long and weighing around 12 to 15
milligrams. However, it can close its mandibles at an impressive
78 to 145 miles per hour. The researchers, led by Sheila Patek of
UC Berkeley, claim this is the fastest self-powered predatory
strike in the animal kingdom. Their work was published in the
August 21 electronic issue of the Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences. Purists might point out that falcons strike
at speeds of up to 300 miles an hour but to attain that speed they
have to start at high altitudes and gravity provides a big assist.

This trap-door ant utilizes only the energy stored in its body to
get those mandibles moving and woe unto any insect in their
range. While the speed of closing its mandibles is impressive,
Patek points out that the truly impressive feat is the acceleration.
We hear about cars accelerating to 60 mph in seconds. This trap-
door ant gets its mandibles moving to over a hundred miles an
hour in just 0.23 milliseconds (23 hundred thousandths of a
second)! This corresponds to about a hundred thousand times
the force of gravity. To achieve this impressive performance, the
mandibles are cocked by relatively large muscles in the ant’s
head and are released to spring shut when unlatched.

The trap-door ants in the study are from Costa Rica. Costa Rica
was one stop on our cruise last year and my wife and I chose to
go on an aerial tram through the upper reaches of the rain forest.
It was very interesting but now I’m sorry I didn’t look down at
the ground. Perhaps I would have seen some trap-door ants
engaging in an activity that caused some hilarity in Patek’s lab.
The ants not only use their fast-closing mandibles to nab prey.
They can snap their jaws shut, propelling themselves spinning
into the air as high as 8.3 millimeters and horizontally up to
nearly 40 millimeters. The researchers liken this to a 5-foot-6-
inch tall human jumping 44 feet into the air and traveling
horizontally 132 feet! Get a bunch of the trap-doors together and
they look like popcorn popping.

Two of the researchers, Andrew Suarez of the University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Brian Fisher of the California
Academy of Sciences observed the popcorn-like jumping of a
group of the ants while they were collecting ants for the study in
Costa Rica. They speculate that the group- jumping may be a
defense mechanism to confuse predators. The ants don’t have
any control over their flight pattern and can land on their back or
their head – it doesn’t make any difference. They right
themselves and go on their way.

The ants have evolved this type of escape maneuver in which
they close their mandibles against the ground to send themselves
flying away from an intruder. If the intruder is less intimidating,
the ants may use a “bouncer defense”. In the bouncer mode, the
ant, perhaps with a bunch of its colleagues, goes up to an intruder
and strikes it, closing its jaws. The result is that the ant may get
in a bit of a nip on the intruder but the ant still gets thrown off
(bounces) into the air, though not as far or as high as in the
normal escape jump.

If you’re wondering how they measured all these facets of the
ant’s behavior, the researchers used super high-speed video
cameras filming at 50,000 frames per second. (We watch normal
movies filmed at 24 frames per second.) I’m sure the researchers
will be filming trap-door ants from other areas in Central and
South America. They want to see if ants in other locations have
also evolved the use of fast-closing mandibles for both predatory
and escape purposes.

Enough about predators. Back to West Chester. Sixty years ago,
I was in West Chester and had a much more pleasant visual
experience than watching a hummingbird die in the clutches of a
bug. A college buddy and I were returning to Pennsylvania from
a trip to Atlantic City, where we had enjoyed the beach and
Harry James and his band on the old Steel Pier – no casinos in
those days. We stopped for dinner at a restaurant in West
Chester and at the next table were a half-dozen of the most
beautiful girls we had ever seen. They were contestants in some
sort of beauty contest and would not have been out of place were
they entered in the Miss America contest back in Atlantic City.
It’s the only time I’ve been in West Chester but the memory
lingers on. (When my wife questioned the “most beautiful”
phrase, I pointed out the “had ever seen” phrase signifying most
beautiful to that point in time!)

Allen F. Bortrum