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Questions about the amazing abilities of ordinary animals.

  1. Jun 16, 2004 #1
    I work as a lifeguard in an outdoor pool surrounded by trees and shrubbery, so when people aren't there, I have alot of time to observe the stuff around me. Some things I've developed questions about are as follows:

    Where do insects get their ridiculous amounts of energy? I've witnessed tiny ants dragging along beatles dozens of times their own weight. I've observed dragonflies, wasps and bees staying in flight for ridiculous amounts of time, flying must use an insane amount of energy, propelling oneself forward and against gravity. Are insects more efficient at refining energy from substances than mamals are, do they have a better way of using energy, or do they just eat alot when they're not apparent?

    How can insects breathe underwater? I've seen wasps and flies maintain conciousness/mobility after being underwater for several minutes of being underwater, and then when they come above water, dry them selves off and fly away within a minute or two.

    Why do wasps continue to move about/seisure after their heads have been removed? Do they have a sort of secondary brain as Dinosaurs did? Do parts of their brains extend beyond their head?

    I've seen a bird (I believe it was a catbird) swallow a whole beetle which was still living, stand their calmly for a few seconds, hop around for a few more seconds (still looking calm) and then just fly away. First of all, how can a bird swallow a beetle without it experiencing immense pain while the beetle was going down it's esophagous? Do the birds have some mechanism of crushing the beetles inside their mouth (extreme peristalitic pressure in the esophagous?), or do they just have a high tolerance for pain? Secondly, how can a bird digest the chitinous shell of a beetle in order to get the nutrients inside of it? I was under the impression that chitin was pretty much undigestable. Are the insides of the beetle exposed tot he birds digestive system through the same means that the beetle might be crushed?
     
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  3. Jun 16, 2004 #2

    iansmith

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    Insect are "cool blooded" animals. Maintaning body temperature (homeostasis) is were most of the energy for a mammal goes. So when an insect intakes food most goes to its deplecement and other activities. For mammals, most of the energies of to maintanning the temperatures. That why crocodiles and fish don't have to eat for weeks

    Insects don’t have lungs. Instead, they have a system of internal tubes called tracheae that are known to exchange oxygen through slow, passive mechanisms, including diffusion. Insect can also carry bubble of air in the body and it can serves as oxygen underwater. The insect will die enventually.

    Insect nervous system is different from vertebrates nervous system. The brain in insects is not giving all the orders, the ventrals nerves nods also give order to the specific body part. the body can funtion without the head. In a nutshell, the head is just there to receive environmental queues and food.
     
  4. Jun 18, 2004 #3
    As a lifeguard, aren't you suppose to be paying complete attention to your part of the pool?
     
  5. Jun 19, 2004 #4

    chroot

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    If you'll take the time to read, Dagenais, you'll notice that he said "when people [swimmers] aren't there."

    - Warren
     
  6. Jun 19, 2004 #5

    Moonbear

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    Even in mammals, though, if the head is removed, reflexes remain intact for a short time without any inhibition from higher brain structures (because they aren't attached). It pretty much stops when there is no longer sufficient oxygen left in the muscles, which happens quickly with no head as the body would bleed out. And of course, there's the proverbial "running around like a chicken with its head cut off." Same thing there for an avian species.

    Birds have an organ along their esophagus called a crop. It is filled with abrasive material that crushes and grinds up food as it passes through. I think that answers both questions. I don't know if their digestive system is capable of digesting chitin, or if it just passes through.
     
  7. Jun 19, 2004 #6
    :/ Had a debate on whether the lab we did was ever going to be useful.. guess i lost.

    One word - chitinase.
     
  8. Jun 20, 2004 #7

    Monique

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    Even we humans produce chitinases, but they haven't figured out yet why we have them..
     
  9. Jun 20, 2004 #8

    Moonbear

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    Two words...big brothers :devil: Are the chitinases found in the digestive tract? People do eat bugs, some of them even voluntarily, not just under the urging of an evil sibling.
     
  10. Jun 20, 2004 #9

    Monique

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    haha, recently an acidic chitinase in mice that has lung localization has been linked to asthma (published in Science last week or so) and the human homolog is located in the stomach and actually has an acidic pH optimum. There is another proposed function that I cannot tell because the lab I work at is the one that actually discovered the human chitinases (!) and we might be on to an important clinical implication.. secrecy is required :)
     
  11. Jun 20, 2004 #10

    selfAdjoint

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    Grubs, at least were an important part of certain stone age diets, and connoisseurs feast on chocolate covered ants. So maybe bug-eating is a deep human thing? And that's why big brothers spring eternal?
     
  12. Jun 20, 2004 #11
    Then why the hell would they need lifeguards? Who are they monitoring?
     
  13. Jun 21, 2004 #12
    I'm monitoring the eating habbits/behavior of birds and insects of course!

    In reality, I'm just waiting for someone to come to the pool so I can guard their life.
     
  14. Jun 21, 2004 #13

    Nec

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    How about devil ?
    Give him a life-boy please....
     
  15. Jun 21, 2004 #14
    Oh god, what on earth are you talking about? :confused: :cry:
     
  16. Jun 22, 2004 #15
    Alright, so this is what we call the physics of scaling.

    It's all a matter of scale.

    Insects are able to lift hundreds of times their own body weight only because they own body weight is so miniscule. If you scaled an ant up to the size of, say, a dog, it wouldn't even be able to lift it's own exoskeleton, it would collapse under its own weight. Larger animals, say humans, might be able to lift one or two times their own weight, where as larger animals like elephants can't come close to lifting their own weight. They also need much thicker skeletons, relatively, to support themselves.

    Scaling becomes important with submersion in water as well. Consider a mouse that has fallen in water. When it crawls out, it has a layer of water on it that's, say, 1 mm thick. Now when an elephant crawls out of water, it has a layer of water the same thickness, 1 mm, but it feels much less amount of weight because there is less volume in proportion to surface area. That's why small things, like many bugs, that are completely unable to make it out of even a small amount of water.

    It gets more complicated, because surface tension becomes a bigger facter for smaller insects. Some bugs can walk right across water without getting wet. I'm guessing that certain bugs have various features that utilize this to survive underwater, although I'm no entymologist.
     
  17. Jun 22, 2004 #16

    russ_watters

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    Scaling is also why you can build a bridge out of balsa-wood with a 1ft span that can support 1000 times its own weight, but you can't build a bridge made of carbon fiber and steel of 1mi span that will support its own weight.
     
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