Tag Archives: Halloween

Frightful Mindsuckers

Parasite-NG-cover-550Just in time for Halloween, the November issue of National Geographic is capitalizing on the current fad for zombies and features an article on the fascinating world of parasitic organisms. Written by the parasite-obsessed Carl Zimmer, the article looks at the ‘mindsuckers’ of crabs, house crickets, lady beetles, amphipods, frogs and ants. While none of these delightful parasitic associations were new to me, what stood out in this online article is the amazing photography, which goes well beyond the natural-look we have come to expect from NG and runs full tilt into the super-natural. Take this cordyceps-ridden ant for instance…

Nat Geo

Ophiocordyceps fungus Ophiocordyceps sp. and the Amazonian ant Dinoponera longipes. PHOTOGRAPH BY ANAND VARMA; DAVID HUGHES LAB, PENN STATE UNIVERSITY

From the text accompanying the image in the online photo gallery:

“Pity the ant afflicted by the mindsucker Ophiocordyceps. When spores of the fungus land on an ant, they penetrate its exoskeleton and enter its brain, compelling the host to leave its normal habitat on the forest floor and scale a nearby tree. Filled to bursting with fungus, the dying ant fastens itself to a leaf or another surface. Fungal stalks burst from the ant’s husk and rain spores onto ants below to begin the process again.”

In the above image, photographer Anand Varma has subdued the visibility of the ant and used selective lighting to highlight the fungal bodies. The wisp-like smoke effect, perhaps accentuated with a long exposure, represents (or is?) the release of spores. The single focused spot of light, appearing to emanate from the eye is a dramatic and creative touch — you won’t see it this way in nature! This will be a keeper magazine for me, as much for Carl Zimmer’s passionate writing as for the creativity revealed in the photographs, all of which deserve a closer look (“reverse engineering”) to see just how the photographer achieved those special effects.

Read the full article online at Mindsuckers–Meet Nature’s Nightmare, where you can also find a video and an interactive graphic novella series.



Posted in Art, Autumn, Bugs, Formicidae, Hymenoptera, Insect, macro, National Geographic, Parasitism, photography, Season Also tagged |

Sunday Bugfest 5

Another buggy selecton of science and photography articles discovered in the last week:

◊ What’s a young male spider to do when his mate ain’t of age? Learn more about the pro’s and con’s of mock sex in Anelosimus studiosus spiders at Inkfish. Based on the study: Non-Conceptive Sexual Behavior in Spiders: A Form of Play Associated with Body Condition, Personality Type, and Male Intrasexual Selection.

◊ Rather Victorian, but some can still entice with soft silk and lace work...

◊ Male euglossine bees collect scents from their environment and store them in special structures on their legs. These collected scents are believed to be used to attract female bees. Some orchids seem to have evolved to lure male bees by producing these scents, and when they come in to collect, the orchid then connects them to a pollen package–ripe for dispersal to other orchids. It seems mutually beneficial but sometimes nothing in biology makes sense…’cos timing is everything.

◊ A. aegypti mosquitoes are the day-flying carriers of dengue fever, and are therefore not affected by the use of bed nets. A recent field study has shown that bio-engineered Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which have been modified to produce offspring that die before reproduction, have been successfully used to breed with wild mosquitoes. Read more on this at the Oxford Science Blog, and see the study at Nature Biotechnology.

And post-Halloween Zombie Science continues…
◊ The  zombie meme has not ended: see how viruses manipulate their caterpillar hosts for maximum transimison in Zombie Insects: A Q&A about a Sinister Virus, then read a revived post by Bora Zivkovic, on the Revenge of the Zombifying Wasp.

◊ Not satisfied with  these zombie tales? Check out how a forensic entomologists can determine how long a body has been above ground before being buried in Digging Up Clues: Research On Buried Blow Flies Will Help Crime Scene Investigators.

◊ Still not satiated? Need more bizarre? See how your Facebookfriends‘ and cannibalism are connected in What Social Media Reveals About Cannibalistic Locusts! Then read Adaptive-network models of swarm dynamics for the whole shebang.

◊ I have a dream…since my discovery of the pleasures of photomacrography, I have longed to make an extended trip into the torrid zone so I can explore the amazing biodiversity with my camera. Here is someone who lives the life: a how-to article on rain forest macro photography by Greg Basco, who lives and works in Costa Rica. Great nature photography!

◊ Michael Erlewine is an amazing photographer who has been with macro since 1956! A Nikon user, and a lover of lenses, he has produced a number of free e- books on photomacrography. Click images for pdfs and…

…visit his webpage at MacroStop for more.

◊ Many who visit this blog use photography to capture images of insects, but others connect with the bug world in different ways. Visit Pencil and Leaf for a view of how an artist develops a painting featuring the snail-shell nesting Osmia bicolour bees.

Posted in Blog Link, Entomology, Equipment, invertebrates, macro, Mating, photography, Roundup, Video, Web LInk Also tagged , , , , , , |