Sunday, April 30, 2006

Circus of the Spineless #8

Circus of the Spineless #8 is up at Get Busy Livin', or Get Busy Bloggin' with lots of good stuff so get on over there and check it out.


Friday, April 28, 2006

Friday Spider Blogging: Brown Recluse, Loxosceles reclusa

This is a Brown Recluse, Loxosceles reclusa (click the pic to enlarge). I took this picture after catching it on the glue trap underneath my bed last week. Geographically, I live in the center of the brown recluse's home range and have a house full of them. It doesn't take long to get one of these traps covered with these if placed in the right spot. A couple of weeks ago I was asleep in bed when I turned over and felt a funny tickle somewhere across my back and arm. It wasn't quite the same as the usual bed sheet corner rubbing across my skin that sometimes spooks me and gets me out of bed, so I jumped up and turned on my light. I raised the covers and looked around but didn't see anything, so I lifted up the pillow and hiding underneath was a brown recluse about the same size as the one pictured. With a quick slap of my hand it was all over. After that I put these traps behind furniture along nearly every baseboard in my house. Luckily I have never been bitten by one, because the bites can be pretty bad. I am not overly concerned about being bitten though because actual brown recluse bites are not nearly as common as most people think. As a family physician, I see at least one "spider bite" per day and usually more. In almost all cases, the patient has not seen an actual spider or any other biting animal. They just assume it had to be a spider bite. It almost always ends up being just a plain old "boil" or abscess. These tend to arise as a result of local invasion to the subcutaneous tissues, by Staphylococcus aureus following a break in the skin or through a hair follicle. The Dermatology Online Journal has a good article on Identifying and Misidentifying the Brown Recluse Spider. The key to correct identification is that the spider has both the violin pattern on its cephalothorax and rather than having eight eyes, the recluse spiders have 6 eyes arranged in pairs with one anterior pair and 2 lateral pairs.

Don't forget to check out Modulator's Friday Ark.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Friday Caterpillar Blogging: Eastern Tent Caterpillars, Malacosoma americanum

These are Eastern Tent Caterpillars, Malacosoma americanum (Click the pic to enlarge). I recently photographed these at a nearby park on a nice sunny day. These silk tents were abundant at the park which is why they came to my attention. Before today's reading I didn't really know too much about the natural history of these caterpillars, but here are a couple of good links, from Wikipedia, and the UK Entomology Department. The key identifying features of these larvae include a generally black body with a white stripe down the back. The sides of the insect will have blue spots located between two yellowish lines. I was curious about the thrashing of the anterior portion of the body, and made a brief video. This is described in the Wikipedia article: "Tent caterpillars, like many other species of social caterpillars, vigorously thrash the anterior part of their bodies when they detect predators and parasitoids. Such bouts of thrashing, which may be initiated by a single caterpillar, radiate rapidly though the colony and may result in group displays involving dozens of caterpillars. Such displays create a moving target for tachinid flies, wasps and other small parasitoids that lay their eggs on or in the body of the caterpillar. They also clearly deter stink bugs and other timid predators."

Don't forget to check out Modulator's Friday Ark.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Egg (sack) Hunt

Click the pic to enlarge

Yesterday my wife's family celebrated Easter with a large meal. While the kids were hunting eggs, I spotted this egg sack. Not expecting much, I cut into it and hundreds of these new spiders came pouring out. As you can see from the bottom picture which has a couple of spiders in focus, all the little white dots in the top two pics are spiders. I don't even have a guess about the specific identification of these spiders.

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Photo Quiz

I know it is way too easy to tell this is an altered photograph of a dandelion so I won't even wait on the answer. Click (then repeat) on the picture to watch a progressive increase in brightness and decrease in contrast until it returns to normal.

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Friday, April 14, 2006

Friday Bird Blogging: Pine Warblers, Dendroica pinus

This is a pair of Pine Warblers, Dendroica pinus (click the picture to enlarge). I took my son out to a nearby park today, and as we were walking off a trail in a semi-cleared area, we were confronted by the birds. The female, shown in the top picture, would come flying directly at us and the quickly turn and land on a nearby branch. The male would flit around on the ground and the base of the trees, sometimes holding his wings out funny and running along the ground. I assume there was a nest nearby and they were trying to both scare me and lure me away. The key features of these birds are the olive-green top side with a yellowish throat and chest. They also have two white wing bars. The male and female have a similar appearance, but the female is duller in color. Here is a complete description of pine warblers with pictures and sounds.

And don't forget to check out Modulator's Friday Ark.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What is sNN0031?

NeuroNova, a Swedish biopharmaceutical company has been engaged in developing drugs designed to stimulate neurogenesis. One of these drugs is sNN0031 which, according to press releases, "is an active ingredient in a drug approved for use in humans, but not for brain disease and in a form not suitable for this type of treatment." In rodent models, the drug caused movements to normalize within 5 weeks and remained so through the 10 week follow up period. Human trials are planned for this year, but I am not sure if they have yet begun.

That is what I do know about sNN0031. What I don't know is the name of and indication for the drug already in use for humans, which is called sNN0031 when given intracerebrovascularly for Parkinson's Disease. I initially thought this would be an easy search on the net but so far all I have found is that the drug's true identity has been "undisclosed".

Both educated guesses and wild guesses are acceptable here.

This drug trial was brought to my attention in the Feb/Mar Seed Magazine article, The Reinvention of the Self .