Congratulations to our own Geetha GT for being selected from 1100 images as a FINALIST in the Micro-imaging section of the 2017 Royal Society Science Photography Competition! You can see her amazing image, “Alone!”, here: https://royalsociety.org/journals/publishing-activities/photo-competition/2017-winners-runners-up/micro-imaging/ Way to go, Geetha – thank you for representing our group so well!
By Geetha G T – I want to talk to you about something you do all the time…What is that? Yes, breathing! It just happens. Just think that there are an enormous number of insects on this earth that also breathe – but differently!
The respiratory system of insects is different from the circulatory system. Insects don’t use lungs like us to breathe, they depend completely on a property of physics termed a concentration gradient. When concentration gradients arise, molecules move from spaces of high to low concentration to retain an equilibrium between the two spaces. This is what actually happens in the insect respiratory system. They use a network of small tubes called tracheae. The air enters the tracheae through a row of holes along the abdomen called spiracles. From the tracheae, air diffuses into very thin tubes called tracheoles, where the exchange of atmospheric air and cells occurs.
Similar to all arthropods, insects have an open circulatory system as opposed to our closed circulatory system, where the blood is held within blood vessels. Insect blood, called hemolymph, circulates throughout the body cavity. The function of hemolymph is to circulate vital nutrients, essential salts and important hormones throughout the insect body. And it also helps retain body shape and assists in the insect’s movement. Interestingly, the hydrostatic pressure created by contractions of the heart also aids in functions such as emerging, molting, and reproduction!
Want to see an insect heart in action? Watch the video below closely. You should be able to see the vessel of each insect expand and contract in their own way!
by Srinivas Rao – Which is the most expensive liquid on earth? Any Guess?
Yes, It is the Scorpion Venom!! Scorpion Venom is the most expensive liquid on earth at $39,000,000 per gallon.
What do scorpions use venom for?
Scorpions use their venom as a defense against predators to paralyze and kill their prey. They hunt insects such as crickets or other small insects which are their main food source. Their venom is the cause of widespread fear, and at the same time, fascination. Most species possess a sting comparable to that of a bee sting, but a few scorpion species have a venomous sting that can be lethal to humans.
What is scorpion venom made of?
The venom is comprised of groups of complex molecules called neurotoxins. These are proteins consisting of 60-70 crosslinked amino acids that when injected attack the nerve cells of the victim causing paralysis and death. Many hold the impression that scorpion venom is one single compound. Few things can be further from truth. An average scorpion’s venom contains numerous toxins, biogenic amines, enzymes, salts and water.
Their toxic effect may be mammal or insect specific.
How does the venom affect the human body?
To understand this, first we must know how muscles work in our body. The muscles in our body are controlled by the movement of special molecules called ions. One such ion is chloride, which helps muscle cells know when to relax. When all the cells in a muscle are contracted, that muscle is flexed. This makes it possible for us to move our arms, legs and other parts of our body. Ions enter muscle cells through opening in the cell membrane called channels. These channels are made up of proteins and have a specific shape that let only certain molecules or atoms pass. Chloride channels for example are specifically designed to only let chloride ions in and out of the cell. Now that we undersand how muscles work, Let’s take a closer look what venom does inside our cells. Some scorpion venom contains a very small protein chain called chlorotoxin, only 36 amino acids long. This tiny protein has a very powerful effect through. It is perfectly shaped to block chloride channels and stop chloride ions from entering muscle cells. Without these ions sending signals telling our cells to relax, the muscles in our body all flex at once and paralysis sets in.
Scorpion venom has medical applications
Research suggests that scorpion venom can block bone loss, making it a useful substance for treating conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. The protein found in the scorpion venom, however can be used to treat pain in humans who suffer from multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease and to make anti-venoms. Researchers have also looked into using the natural compounds found in scorpion venom as a pain killer. The painful venom could also be used to assist cancer treatments in future.
What makes the scorpion venom so expensive?
Scorpion venom is expensive because they don’t produce that much of it and collection techniques can be expensive. Different methods are used including manual ‘milking’, electrical stimulation, collection and maceration. Plus it must be clean and kept cold. With 1500+ different species of scorpions and so many different types of venom molecules with it, even in this day and future days there will be so much biological diversity, and research to explore on venom.
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