Building a home from foam—túngara frog foam nest architecture and three-phase construction process
Frogs that build foam nests floating on water face the problems of over-dispersion of the secretions used and eggs being dangerously exposed at the foam : air interface. Nest construction behaviour of túngara frogs, Engystomops pustulosus, has features that may circumvent these problems. Pairs build nests in periodic bursts of foam production and egg deposition, three discrete phases being discernible. The first is characterized by a bubble raft without egg deposition and an approximately linear increase in duration of mixing events with time. This phase may reduce initial over-dispersion of foam precursor materials until a critical concentration is achieved. The main building phase is marked by mixing events and start-to-start intervals being nearly constant in duration. During the final phase, mixing events do not change in duration but intervals between them increase in an exponential-like fashion. Pairs joining a colonial nesting abbreviate their initial phase, presumably by exploiting a pioneer pair's bubble raft, thereby reducing energy and material expenditure, and time exposed to predators. Finally, eggs are deposited only in the centre of nests with a continuously produced, approximately 1 cm deep egg-free cortex that protectively encloses hatched larvae in stranded nests.
Biology Letters
A nocturnal mammal, the greater mouse-eared bat, calibrates a magnetic compass by the sun
Recent evidence suggests that bats can detect the geomagnetic field, but the way in which this is used by them for navigation to a home roost remains unresolved. The geomagnetic field may be used by animals both to indicate direction and to locate position. In birds, directional information appears to be derived from an interaction of the magnetic field with either the sun or the stars, with some evidence suggesting that sunset/sunrise provides the primary directional reference by which a magnetic compass is calibrated daily. We demonstrate that homing greater mouse-eared bats (Myotis myotis) calibrate a magnetic compass with sunset cues by testing their homing response after exposure to an altered magnetic field at and after sunset. Magnetic manipulation at sunset resulted in a counterclockwise shift in orientation compared with controls, consistent with sunset calibration of the magnetic field, whereas magnetic manipulation after sunset resulted in no change in orientation. Unlike in birds, however, the pattern of polarization was not necessary for the calibration. For animals that occupy ecological niches where the sunset is rarely observed, this is a surprising finding. Yet it may indicate the primacy of the sun as an absolute geographical reference not only for birds but also within other vertebrate taxa.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Polarization sensitivity in two species of cuttlefish – Sepia plangon (Gray 1849) and Sepia mestus (Gray 1849) – demonstrated with polarized optomotor stimuli
SUMMARY The existence of polarization sensitivity (PS), most likely resulting from the orthogonal arrangement of microvilli in photoreceptors, has been proposed in cephalopods for some time, although it has rarely been examined behaviourally. Here, we tested the mourning cuttlefish, Sepia plangon, and the reaper cuttlefish, Sepia mestus, for polarization sensitivity using a large-field optomotor stimulus containing polarization contrast. Polaroid filter drums with stripes producing alternating e-vectors were rotated around free-moving animals. Polarized optomotor responses were displayed, and these responses were similar to those performed in response to a black-and-white, vertically-striped drum, whereas no responses were displayed to a plain polarizing control drum producing just a vertical e-vector. This indicates that the animals are able to see the contrast between adjacent stripes in the polarizing drum. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of functional polarization sensitivity in cuttlefish.
The Journal of Experimental Biology
Identification and characterization of a multidomain hyperthermophilic cellulase from an archaeal enrichment.
Despite extensive studies on microbial and enzymatic lignocellulose degradation, relatively few Archaea are known to deconstruct crystalline cellulose. Here we describe a consortium of three hyperthermophilic archaea enriched from a continental geothermal source by growth at 90 °C on crystalline cellulose, representing the first instance of Archaea able to deconstruct lignocellulose optimally above 90 °C. Following metagenomic studies on the consortium, a 90 kDa, multidomain cellulase, annotated as a member of the TIM barrel glycosyl hydrolase superfamily, was characterized. The multidomain architecture of this protein is uncommon for hyperthermophilic endoglucanases, and two of the four domains of the enzyme have no characterized homologues. The recombinant enzyme has optimal activity at 109 °C, a half-life of 5 h at 100 °C, and resists denaturation in strong detergents, high-salt concentrations, and ionic liquids. Cellulases active above 100 °C may assist in biofuel production from lignocellulosic feedstocks by hydrolysing cellulose under conditions typically employed in biomass pretreatment.
Nature Communications
The articulated coralline Calliarthron cheilosporioides Manza produces segmented fronds composed of calcified segments (intergenicula) separated by uncalcified joints (genicula), which allow fronds to bend and reorient under breaking waves in the wave‐swept intertidal zone. Genicula are formed when calcified cells decalcify and restructure to create flexible tissue. The present study has identified important differences in the main agaran disaccharidic repeating units [→3)‐β‐d‐Galp (1→ 4)‐α‐l‐Galp(1→] synthesized by genicular and intergenicular segments. Based on chemical and spectroscopical analyses, we report that genicular cells from C. cheilosporioides biosynthesize a highly methoxylated galactan at C‐6 position with low levels of branching with xylose side stubs on C‐6 of the [→3)‐β‐d‐Galp (1→] units, whereas intergenicular segments produce xylogalactans with high levels of xylose and low levels of 6‐O‐methyl β‐d‐Gal units. These data suggest that, during genicular development, xylosyl branched, 3‐linked β‐d‐Galp units present in the xylogalactan backbones from intergenicular walls are mostly replaced by 6‐O‐methyl‐d‐galactose units. We speculate that this structural shift is a consequence of a putative and specific methoxyl transferase that blocks the xylosylation on C‐6 of the 3‐linked β‐d‐Galp units. Changes in galactan substitutions may contribute to the distinct mechanical properties of genicula and may lend insight into the calcification process in coralline algae.
Journal of Phycology
Foam nest components of the túngara frog: a cocktail of proteins conferring physical and biological resilience
The foam nests of the túngara frog (Engystomops pustulosus) form a biocompatible incubation medium for eggs and sperm while resisting considerable environmental and microbiological assault. We have shown that much of this behaviour can be attributed to a cocktail of six proteins, designated ranaspumins (Rsn-1 to Rsn-6), which predominate in the foam. These fall into two discernable classes based on sequence analysis and biophysical properties. Rsn-2, with an amphiphilic amino acid sequence unlike any hitherto reported, exhibits substantial detergent-like surfactant activity necessary for production of foam, yet is harmless to the membranes of eggs and spermatozoa. A further four (Rsn-3 to Rsn-6) are lectins, three of which are similar to fucolectins found in teleosts but not previously identified in a land vertebrate, though with a carbohydrate binding specificity different from previously described fucolectins. The sixth, Rsn-1, is structurally similar to proteinase inhibitors of the cystatin class, but does not itself appear to exhibit any such activity. The nest foam itself, however, does exhibit potent cystatin activity. Rsn-encoding genes are transcribed in many tissues of the adult frogs, but the full cocktail is present only in oviduct glands. Combinations of lectins and cystatins have known roles in plants and animals for defence against microbial colonization and insect attack. Túngara nest foam displays a novel synergy of selected elements of innate defence plus a specialized surfactant protein, comprising a previously unreported strategy for protection of unattended reproductive stages of animals.
Proceedings of The Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
The suctorial organ of the Solifugae (Arachnida, Solifugae)
The ability of members of the arachnid order Solifugae to climb smooth, vertical surfaces and the organs involved in this behavior are investigated. Macroscopic, microscopic, and scanning electron microscopic observations are made of a palpal organ called the suctorial organ. Observations of the behavior but not the microstructure have been made in the past. Histological examination illustrates the internal gross anatomy of this structure and scanning electron microscopy demonstrates the fine structure in adults of four genera: Eremobates (Eremobatidae), Eremochelis (Eremobatidae), Eremorhax (Eremobatidae), Ammotrechula (Ammotrechidae), as well as an unidentified late stage immature and third stage instar. The suctorial organ is most likely primarily used for prey capture in the wild. q 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Arthropod Structure & Development
On the Mound of Macrotermes michaelseni as an Organ of Respiratory Gas Exchange
Patterns and rates of air movements in the mounds and nests of Macrotermes michaelseni were studied using tracer methods. Wind is a significant source of energy for powering nest ventilation, despite the mound being a completely enclosed structure. Nests are ventilated by a tidal movement of air driven by temporal variation in wind speed and wind direction. Density gradients sufficiently steep to drive bulk flow by natural convection will be rare. However, metabolism‐induced buoyant forces may interact with wind energy in a way that promotes homeostasis of the mound atmosphere.
Physiological and Biochemical Zoology
The diversity of hydrostatic skeletons
Summary A remarkably diverse group of organisms rely on a hydrostatic skeleton for support, movement, muscular antagonism and the amplification of the force and displacement of muscle contraction. In hydrostatic skeletons, force is transmitted not through rigid skeletal elements but instead by internal pressure. Functioning of these systems depends on the fact that they are essentially constant in volume as they consist of relatively incompressible fluids and tissue. Contraction of muscle and the resulting decrease in one of the dimensions thus results in an increase in another dimension. By actively (with muscle) or passively (with connective tissue) controlling the various dimensions, a wide array of deformations, movements and changes in stiffness can be created. An amazing range of animals and animal structures rely on this form of skeletal support, including anemones and other polyps, the extremely diverse wormlike invertebrates, the tube feet of echinoderms, mammalian and turtle penises, the feet of burrowing bivalves and snails, and the legs of spiders. In addition, there are structures such as the arms and tentacles of cephalopods, the tongue of mammals and the trunk of the elephant that also rely on hydrostatic skeletal support but lack the fluid-filled cavities that characterize this skeletal type. Although we normally consider arthropods to rely on a rigid exoskeleton, a hydrostatic skeleton provides skeletal support immediately following molting and also during the larval stage for many insects. Thus, the majority of animals on earth rely on hydrostatic skeletons.
The Journal of Experimental Biology
On the buoyancy of the pearly nautilus
Nautilus macromphalus Sowerby when freshly caught was close to neutral buoyancy having a weight in sea water of about 0–2% of its weight in air. The animals without their shells varied considerably in density but the volume of the shell was an approximately constant fraction of the total volume of the whole animal and whole animals were brought approximately to the same density by havingmore or less liquid inside the chambers of the shell. About 80 % of the gas space in the shell was used to support the weight of the shell itself in sea water.In an adult animal the centre of buoyancy was found to be about 6 mm above the centre of gravity, which made the animal very stable in its natural swimming position, a couple of about 350 g. cm being required to turn it through 90°. The pearly partsof the chamber walls were impermeable to sea water but the chalky and horny siphuncular tubes joining the septal necks were very porous. The most newly formed tenor so chambers were the only ones to contain liquids in appreciable volume and theydid this in diminishing amounts from the newest to the oldest. The watery liquids found within the chambers were always hypotonic to sea water and sometimes markedly so; they contained principally sodium and chloride ions. One animal was in the process of forming a new chamber, this incomplete chamber was completely full of liquidwith an osmolarity close to that of sea water but differing in composition from seawater.
Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
How strong is intracanopy leaf plasticity in temperate deciduous trees?
Intracanopy plasticity in tree leaf form is a major determinant of whole-plant function and potentially of forest understory ecology. However, there exists little systematic information for the full extent of intracanopy plasticity, whether it is linked with height and exposure, or its variation across species. For arboretum-grown trees of six temperate deciduous species averaging 13-18 m in height, we quantified intracanopy plasticity for 11 leaf traits across three canopy locations (basal-interior, basal-exterior, and top). Plasticity was pronounced across the canopy, and maximum likelihood analyses indicated that plasticity was primarily linked with irradiance, regardless of height. Intracanopy plasticity (the quotient of values for top and basal-interior leaves) was often similar across species and statistically indistinguishable across species for several key traits. At canopy tops, the area of individual leaves was on average 0.5-0.6 times that at basal-interior, stomatal density 1.1-1.5 times higher, sapwood cross-sectional area up to 1.7 times higher, and leaf mass per area 1.5-2.2 times higher; guard cell and stomatal pore lengths were invariant across the canopy. Species differed in intracanopy plasticity for the mass of individual leaves, leaf margin dissection, ratio of leaf to sapwood areas, and stomatal pore area per leaf area; plasticity quotients ranged only up to ≈2. Across the six species, trait plasticities were uncorrelated and independent of the magnitude of the canopy gradient in irradiance or height and of the species' light requirements for regeneration. This convergence across species indicates general optimization or constraints in development, resulting in a bounded plasticity that improves canopy performance.
American Journal of Botany
A biomechanical perspective on the role of large stem volume and high water content in baobab trees (Adansonia spp.; Bombacaceae).
The stems of large trees serve in transport, storage, and support; however, the degree to which these roles are reflected in their morphology is not always apparent. The large, water-filled stems of baobab trees (Adansonia spp.) are generally assumed to serve a water storage function, yet recent studies indicate limited use of stored water. Through an analysis of wood structure and composition, we examined whether baobab morphology reflects biomechanical constraints rather than water storage capacity in the six Madagascar baobab species. Baobab wood has a high water content (up to 79%), low wood density (0.09-0.17 g · cm(-3)), high parenchyma content (69-88%), and living cells beyond 35 cm into the xylem from the cambium. Volumetric construction cost of the wood is several times lower than in more typical trees, and the elastic modulus approaches that of parenchyma tissue. Safety factors calculated from estimated elastic buckling heights were low, indicating that baobabs are not more overbuilt than other temperate and tropical trees, yet the energy investment in stem material is comparable to that in temperate deciduous trees. Furthermore, the elastic modulus of the wood decreases with water content, such that excessive water withdrawal from the stem could affect mechanical stability.
American Journal of Botany
Hydrophobic trichome layers and epicuticular wax powders in Bromeliaceae.
The distinctive foliar trichome of Bromeliaceae has promoted the evolution of an epiphytic habit in certain taxa by allowing the shoot to assume a significant role in the uptake of water and mineral nutrients. Despite the profound ecophysiological and taxonomic importance of this epidermal structure, the functions of nonabsorbent trichomes in remaining Bromeliaceae are not fully understood. The hypothesis that light reflection from these trichome layers provides photoprotection was not supported by spectroradiometry and fluorimetry in the present study; the mean reflectance of visible light from trichome layers did not exceed 6.4% on the adaxial surfaces of species representing a range of ecophysiological types nor was significant photoprotection provided by their presence. Several reports suggesting water repellency in some terrestrial Bromeliaceae were investigated. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and a new technique-fluorographic dimensional imaging (FDI)-were used to assess the interaction between aqueous droplets and the leaf surfaces of 86 species from 25 genera. In the majority of cases a dense layer of overlapping, stellate or peltate trichomes held water off the leaf epidermis proper. In the case of hydrophobic tank-forming tillandsioideae, a powdery epicuticular wax layer provided water repellency. The irregular architecture of these indumenta resulted in relatively little contact with water droplets. Most mesic terrestrial Pitcairnioideae examined either possessed glabrous leaf blades or hydrophobic layers of confluent trichomes on the abaxial surface. Thus, the present study indicates that an important ancestral function of the foliar trichome in Bromeliaceae was water repellency. The ecophysiological consequences of hydrophobia are discussed.
American Journal of Botany
The incidence and implications of clouds for cloud forest plant water relations.
Although clouds are the most recognisable and defining feature of tropical montane cloud forests, little research has focussed on how clouds affect plant functioning. We used satellite and ground-based observations to study cloud and leaf wetting patterns in contrasting tropical montane and pre-montane cloud forests. We then studied the consequences of leaf wetting for the direct uptake of water accumulated on leaf surfaces into the leaves themselves. During the dry season, the montane forest experienced higher precipitation, cloud cover and leaf wetting events of longer duration than the pre-montane forest. Leaf wetting events resulted in foliar water uptake in all species studied. The capacity for foliar water uptake differed significantly between the montane and pre-montane forest plant communities, as well as among species within a forest. Our results indicate that foliar water uptake is common in these forest plants and improves plant water status during the dry season.
Ecology Letters
Functional morphology of scale hinges used to transport water: convergent drinking adaptations in desert lizards (Moloch horridus and Phrynosoma cornutum)
The Australian thorny devil, Moloch horridus Gray, 1841, and the Texas horned lizard, Phrynosoma cornutum Harlan, 1825, have the remarkable ability to rapidly move water through interscalar spaces on their skin’s surface to their mouth for drinking. The morphology of these scale hinges has not been studied. We used histological and SEM techniques to examine and compare the scale hinges of both species. Additional taxa in their respective lineages were examined in order to evaluate the potential that convergent evolution has occurred. In the two species that transport water, each scale hinge has a basally expanded and semi-enclosed channel formed by the hinge joint that is interconnected with all scale hinges on the body. We hypothesize that it is within this semi-tubular channel system of hinge joints, where the β-layer keratin of the integument is very thin, that water is transported. Hinge joint walls are covered by a complex topography of fractured surfaces that greatly expand the channel’s surface area and probably enhance capillary transport of water. In addition, we note differing morphology of scale surfaces at the rear of the jaws of both species. We hypothesize that capillary forces fill the scale-hinge system and additional forces, generated within the mouth by observed motions during drinking, depress local water-pressure to pull water through the channels of the hinge-joint system. We conclude that the combined features in the two species, semi-tubular hinge-joint channels with convoluted walls and a jaw-buccal cavity pumping-mechanism, have convergently evolved for capture, transport, and drinking of water from sporadic rainfall.
Function of spiral grain in trees
SummaryThrough spiral grain, conduits for sap lead from each root to all branches. This uniform distribution of sap is indicated by the paths of vessels and tracheids, and has been proven experimentally by means of dyed sap injected into the base of stems or taken up by roots. Trees receiving water only from roots at one side of the root collar nevertheless stay green and continue growing. Spiral grain in bark distributes food from each branch to other flanks of the stem and to most roots. Experimental interruptions of the sap and food conduits caused the cambial zone to reorient new conduit cells in new directions, bypassing the interruption. In particular, spiral grooves cut into the stem surface caused spiral grain. The new cells reorient through division and growth. Although spiral grain is largely under genetic control, trees appear to have a spiral grain especially where needed for distribution of water when root spheres are dry at one side. Compared with straight-grained trees, spiral-grained stems and branches bend and twist more when exposed to strong wind, in this way offering less wind resistance and being less likely to break. Through the bending and twisting, snow slides down from branches rather than breaking them, but the main function of spiral grain is the uniform distribution of supplies from each root to all branches, and from each branch to many roots.
Trees-structure and Function
Bacterial Recognition of Mineral Surfaces: Nanoscale Interactions Between Shewanella and α-FeOOH
Force microscopy has been used to quantitatively measure the infinitesimal forces that characterize interactions betweenShewanella oneidensis (a dissimilatory metal-reducing bacterium) and goethite (α-FeOOH), both commonly found in Earth near-surface environments. Force measurements with subnanonewton resolution were made in real time with living cells under aerobic and anaerobic solutions as a function of the distance, in nanometers, between a cell and the mineral surface. Energy values [in attojoules (10−18 joules)] derived from these measurements show that the affinity between S. oneidensis and goethite rapidly increases by two to five times under anaerobic conditions in which electron transfer from bacterium to mineral is expected. Specific signatures in the force curves suggest that a 150-kilodalton putative iron reductase is mobilized within the outer membrane of S. oneidensis and specifically interacts with the goethite surface to facilitate the electron transfer process.
Overcoming the brittleness of glass through bio-inspiration and micro-architecture.
Highly mineralized natural materials such as teeth or mollusk shells boast unusual combinations of stiffness, strength and toughness currently unmatched by engineering materials. While high mineral contents provide stiffness and hardness, these materials also contain weaker interfaces with intricate architectures, which can channel propagating cracks into toughening configurations. Here we report the implementation of these features into glass, using a laser engraving technique. Three-dimensional arrays of laser-generated microcracks can deflect and guide larger incoming cracks, following the concept of 'stamp holes'. Jigsaw-like interfaces, infiltrated with polyurethane, furthermore channel cracks into interlocking configurations and pullout mechanisms, significantly enhancing energy dissipation and toughness. Compared with standard glass, which has no microstructure and is brittle, our bio-inspired glass displays built-in mechanisms that make it more deformable and 200 times tougher. This bio-inspired approach, based on carefully architectured interfaces, provides a new pathway to toughening glasses, ceramics or other hard and brittle materials.
Nature Communications
Extreme impact and cavitation forces of a biological hammer: strike forces of the peacock mantis shrimp Odontodactylus scyllarus
SUMMARY Mantis shrimp are renowned for their unusual method of breaking shells with brief, powerful strikes of their raptorial appendages. Due to the extreme speeds of these strikes underwater, cavitation occurs between their appendages and hard-shelled prey. Here we examine the magnitude and relative contribution of the impact and cavitation forces generated by the peacock mantis shrimp Odontodactylus scyllarus. We present the surprising finding that each strike generates two brief, high-amplitude force peaks, typically 390–480 μs apart. Based on high-speed imaging, force measurements and acoustic analyses, it is evident that the first force peak is caused by the limb's impact and the second force peak is due to the collapse of cavitation bubbles. Peak limb impact forces range from 400 to 1501 N and peak cavitation forces reach 504 N. Despite their small size, O. scyllarus can generate impact forces thousands of times their body weight. Furthermore, on average, cavitation peak forces are 50% of the limb's impact force, although cavitation forces may exceed the limb impact forces by up to 280%. The rapid succession of high peak forces used by mantis shrimp suggests that mantis shrimp use a potent combination of cavitation forces and extraordinarily high impact forces to fracture shells. The stomatopod's hammer is fundamentally different from typical shell-crushing mechanisms such as fish jaws and lobster claws, and may have played an important and as yet unexamined role in the evolution of shell form.
The Journal of Experimental Biology
Characterization of cork warts and aerenchyma in leaves of Rhizophora mangle and Rhizophora racemosa
Abstract Mangroves are a diverse group of plants that inhabit tidal zones in the tropics and sub-tropics. Some mangrove species occupy the lower tidal zone in which the substrate is anoxic for long time periods while some mangroves inhabit the upper tidal zone in which the substrate should be less anoxic. Recent research has shown that about 12 species of mangroves from the Americas and from Australia transport air internally from openings in leaves called cork warts, as air enters leaves it collects within leaf aerenchyma (special air spaces within leaves) where the air expands when heated by sunlight. Aerenchyma in leaves is connected to aerenchyma in stems and stilt roots that lead to small roots in the substrate. Eventually, youngest root tissues are aerated while they grow within the anoxic substrate. Data of this study show that cork warts and leaf aerenchyma develop during leaf initiation in both shoot terminals of branches as well as in viviparous seedlings. The number of cork warts per leaf is similar for leaf primordia and for fully enlarged leaves for both Rhizophora species. Tissue sections of leaves of less than 30 mm2 area show an area of more translucent cells. Leaves with a surface area of 200 mm2 show a distinct aerenchyma tissue in which cells have no contents. For such leaves the depth of aerenchyma was 54 µm with a total leaf depth of 230 µm. Fully enlarged leaves had an aerenchyma depth of about 81 µm while the total leaf thickness was about 660 µm. For all leaves above 30 mm2, aerenchyma comprised 25% of total leaf volume. Densities of cork warts were the same for emerging leaf primordia as for fully enlarged leaves. The results of this study show that cork warts and aerenchyma develop in leaf primordia of both terminal buds and viviparous seedlings. Aerenchyma and cork warts become active once they emerge from their stipular coverings.
Journal of The Torrey Botanical Society
Analysis of preload-dependent reversible mechanical interlocking using beetle-inspired wing locking device.
We report an analysis of preload-dependent reversible interlocking between regularly arrayed, high aspect ratio (AR) polymer micro- and nanofibers. Such a reversible interlocking is inspired from the wing-locking device of a beetle where densely populated microhairs (termed microtrichia) on the cuticular surface form numerous hair-to-hair contacts to maximize lateral shear adhesion. To mimic this, we fabricate various high AR, vertical micro- and nanopillars on a flexible substrate and investigate the shear locking force with different preloads (0.1-10 N/cm(2)). A simple theoretical model is developed based on the competition between van der Waals (VdW) attraction and deflection forces of pillars, which can explain the preload-dependent maximum deflection, tilting angle, and total shear adhesion force.
Cutaneous Water Acquisition by the Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus: Agamidae)
The skin of the thorny devil readily absorbs water, like "blotting-paper." The volume of water held in the cutaneous capillary system is about 3.7% of the body mass. Water is conveyed to the mouth by the cutaneous capillary system, where it is imbibed. The low permeability of the skin to evaporative water loss and lack of dyed water absorption suggest that there is not any transcutaneous water absorption across the skin itself. Interscalar channels about 5-50 ;m wide, and an overlapping shelf around the edge of the scales that forms a sub-scalar channel, appear to be the primary cutaneous surface features that are responsible for the "blotting-paper" action of the skin. The capillarity force that absorbs water to the skin supports a pressure head of about 10 cm water. This capillary head is not consistent with the inter-scalar capillarity channel dimension of about 5-50 um, but to about 220 Am. One ecological role of the "blotting-paper" skin of the thorny devil is clearly the direct uptake of rain that falls on the skin or from puddles. In addition, the cutaneous capillary system of the thorny devil enables water absorption
Journal of Herpetology
The biology and ecology of the ocean sunfish Mola mola: a review of current knowledge and future research perspectives
Relatively little is known about the biology and ecology of the world’s largest (heaviest) bony fish, the ocean sunfish Mola mola, despite its worldwide occurrence in temperate and tropical seas. Studies are now emerging that require many common perceptions about sunfish behaviour and ecology to be re-examined. Indeed, the long-held view that ocean sunfish are an inactive, passively drifting species seems to be entirely misplaced. Technological advances in marine telemetry are revealing distinct behavioural patterns and protracted seasonal movements. Extensive forays by ocean sunfish into the deep ocean have been documented and broad-scale surveys, together with molecular and laboratory based techniques, are addressing the connectivity and trophic role of these animals. These emerging molecular and movement studies suggest that local distinct populations may be prone to depletion through bycatch in commercial fisheries. Rising interest in ocean sunfish, highlighted by the increase in recent publications, warrants a thorough review of the biology and ecology of this species. Here we review the taxonomy, morphology, geography, diet, locomotion, vision, movements, foraging ecology, reproduction and species interactions of M. mola. We present a summary of current conservation issues and suggest methods for addressing fundamental gaps in our knowledge.
Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries
Neurophysiology: Sensing temperature without ion channels
Mammals use cold-sensitive ion channels to translate information about the temperature of their surroundings into electrical signals that are taken up by thermoreceptor nerve cells. Here I investigate the thermoelectric properties of an extracellular gel removed from the electrosensors of sharks, and show that it develops significant voltages in response to tiny temperature gradients. This bulk property of the gel indicates that temperature can be translated into electrical information without the need for ion channels, a sensitivity that may help sharks to locate thermal fronts as feeding areas.
Death by small forces: a fracture and fatigue analysis of wave-swept macroalgae
SUMMARY Wave-swept macroalgae are subjected to large hydrodynamic forces as each wave breaks on shore, loads that are repeated thousands of times per day. Previous studies have shown that macroalgae can easily withstand isolated impositions of maximal field forces. Nonetheless, macroalgae break frequently. Here we investigate the possibility that repeated loading by sub-lethal forces can eventually cause fracture by fatigue. We determine fracture toughness, in the form of critical strain energy release rate, for several flat-bladed macroalgae, thereby assessing their resistance to complete fracture in the presence of cracks. Critical energy release rates are evaluated through single-edge-notch, pull-to-break tests and single-edge-notch, repeated-loading tests. Crack growth at sub-critical energy release rates is measured in repeated-loading tests, providing a first assessment of algal breakage under conditions of repeated loading. We then estimate the number of imposed waves required for un-notched algal blades to reach the point of complete fracture. We find that, if not checked by repair, fatigue crack growth from repeated sub-lethal stresses may completely fracture individuals within days. Our results suggest that fatigue may play an important role in macroalgal breakage.
The Journal of Experimental Biology
Microtubule assembly dynamics: new insights at the nanoscale.
Although the dynamic self-assembly behavior of microtubule ends has been well characterized at the spatial resolution of light microscopy (~200 nm), the single-molecule events that lead to these dynamics are less clear. Recently, a number of in vitro studies used novel approaches combining laser tweezers, microfabricated chambers, and high-resolution tracking of microtubule-bound beads to characterize mechanochemical aspects of MT dynamics at nanometer scale resolution. In addition, computational modeling is providing a framework for integrating these experimental results into physically plausible models of molecular scale microtubule dynamics. These nanoscale studies are providing new fundamental insights about microtubule assembly, and will be important for advancing our understanding of how microtubule dynamic instability is regulated in vivo via microtubule-associated proteins, therapeutic agents, and mechanical forces.
Current Opinion in Cell Biology
A poisonous surprise under the coat of the African crested rat
Plant toxins are sequestered by many animals and the toxicity is frequently advertised by aposematic displays to deter potential predators. Such ‘unpalatability by appropriation’ is common in many invertebrate groups and also found in a few vertebrate groups. However, potentially lethal toxicity by acquisition has so far never been reported for a placental mammal. Here, we describe complex morphological structures and behaviours whereby the African crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi, acquires, dispenses and advertises deterrent toxin. Roots and bark of Acokanthera schimperi (Apocynaceae) trees are gnawed, masticated and slavered onto highly specialized hairs that wick up the compound, to be delivered whenever the animal is bitten or mouthed by a predator. The poison is a cardenolide, closely resembling ouabain, one of the active components in a traditional African arrow poison long celebrated for its power to kill elephants.
Proceedings of The Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Chemical mediation of bacterial surface colonisation by secondary metabolites from the red alga Delisea pulchra
We investigated the effects of halogenated furanones from the red alga Delisea pulchra on colonisation of surfaces by marine bacteria. Bacterial abundance on the surface of D. pulchra, assessed using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), was significantly lower than on the surfaces of 3 co-occurring algal species, all of which lack furanones. There was also a strong inverse correlation between bacterial abundance and furanone content (previously determined) for different sections of the thallus of D. pulchra, consistent with inhibition of bacteria by furanones. Based on these observations we experimentally investigated inhibition of marine bacteria by furanones, initially testing the effects of crude extract of D. pulchra (about 50% of which is furanones) on the growth of 144 strains of bacteria isolated from the surfaces of D. pulchra, nearby rocks, or a CO-occurring alga (Sargassum vestjtum) This crude extract did not strongly inhibit growth of these bacteria; 79% of the strains grew at 50 pg ml-' of crude extract, and 63 % grew at 500 pg ml-'. Inhibition of growth that did occur was strongly source dependent, with bacteria isolated from rocks the least affected, and strains from D. pulchra the most. As inhibition of growth did not provide an adequate explanation for the inverse relationship between levels of furanones and bacteria abundance on D. pulchra, we proceeded to investigate the effects of these metabolites on other bacterial characteristics relevant to colonisation-attachment, swarming, and swimming. lndividual furanones or crude extract at natural concentrations strongly inhibited bacterial attachment in the laboratory and in the field. In laboratory assays, attachment of 3 strains isolated from rocks was much more strongly affected than that of 3 isolates from D. pulchra, in contrast to the pattern for growth inhibition. We also tested individual furanones against swimming and swarming of the same 6 bacterial isolates (3 from rocks, 3 from D. pulchra) used in the attachment assays. At least some furanones inhibited swarming or sulmming at non-growth-inhibitory concentrations for all isolates, again indicating specific effects against bacterial characteristics. As for attachment, there were significant differences in the responses of different isolates to furanones. We also found that the ability to swarm was widespread among these surface associated marine bacteria, suggesting that swarming may be ecologically important in these systems. Overall, we found that the effects of furanones on bacteria varied among (1) furanones, (2) bacterial phenotypes, (3) different isolates and (4) different sources of isolation (e.g. rocks or algae). This differential inhibition of different bacterial isolates or phenotypes by furanones, as well as affecting overall bacterial abundance on the alga, should have strong effects on the species composition of the bacterial community on the alga's surface. The effects of furanones on specific bacterial colonisation traits are discussed in the light of recent evidence demonstrating that furanones interfere with bacterial acylated homoserine lactone regulatory systems.
Aquatic Microbial Ecology
Pyrolobus fumarii, gen. and sp. nov., represents a novel group of archaea, extending the upper temperature limit for life to 113°C
Abstract A novel, irregular, coccoid-shaped archaeum was isolated from a hydrothermally heated black smoker wall at the TAG site at the Mid Atlantic Ridge (depth 3650 meters). It grew at between 90°C and 113°C (optimum 106°C) and pH 4.0–6.5 (optimum 5.5) and 1%–4% salt (optimum 1.7%). The organism was a facultatively aerobic obligate chemolithoautotroph gaining energy by H2-oxidation. Nitrate, S2O32–, and low concentrations of O2 (up to 0.3% v/v) served as electron acceptors, yielding NH+4, H2S, and H2O as end products, respectively. Growth was inhibited by acetate, pyruvate, glucose, starch, or sulfur. The new isolate was able to form colonies on plates (at 102°C) and to grow at a pressure of 25000 kPa (250 bar). Exponentially growing cultures survived a one-hour autoclaving at 121°C. The GC content was 53mol%. The core lipids consisted of glycerol–dialkyl glycerol tetraethers and traces of 2,3-di-O-phytanyl-sn-glycerol. The cell wall was composed of a surface layer of tetrameric protein complexes arranged on a p4-lattice (center-to-center distance 18.5nm). By its 16S rRNA sequence, the new isolate belonged to the Pyrodictiaceae. Based on its GC-content, DNA homology, S-layer composition, and metabolism, we describe here a new genus, which we name Pyrolobus (the "fire lobe"). The type species is Pyrolobus fumarii (type strain 1A; DSM).
Deep-Sea, Swimming Worms with Luminescent “Bombs”
Several species of deep-sea polychaete worms have been discovered that have a bizarre predator distraction mechanism. By using remotely operated vehicles, we found seven previously unknown species of swimming annelid worms below 1800 meters. Specimens were large and bore a variety of elaborate head appendages. In addition, five species have pairs of ellipsoidal organs homologous to branchiae that produce brilliant green bioluminescence when autotomized. Five genes were used to determine the evolutionary relationships of these worms within Cirratuliformia. These species form a clade within Acrocirridae and were not closely related to either of the two known pelagic cirratuliforms. Thus, this clade represents a third invasion of the pelagic realm from Cirratuliformia. This finding emphasizes the wealth of discoveries to be made in pelagic and deep demersal habitats.
Elastic modulus of hard tissues.
This work aims at evaluating the elastic modulus of hard biological tissues by considering their staggered platelet micro-structure. An analytical expression for the effective modulus along the stagger direction is formulated using three non-dimensional structural variables. Structures with a single staggered hierarchy (e.g. collagen fibril) are first studied and predictions are compared with the experimental results and finite element simulations from the literature. A more complicated configuration, such as an array of fibrils, is analyzed next. Finally, a mechanical model is proposed for tooth dentin, in which variations in the multi-scale structural hierarchy are shown to significantly affect the macroscopic mechanical properties.
Journal of Biomechanics
Do epidermal lens cells facilitate the absorptance of diffuse light?
Many understory plants rely on diffuse light for photosynthesis because direct light is usually scattered by upper canopy layers before it strikes the forest floor. There is a considerable gap in the literature concerning the interaction of direct and diffuse light with leaves. Some understory plants have well-developed lens-shaped epidermal cells, which have long been thought to increase the absorption of diffuse light. To assess the role of epidermal cell shape in capturing direct vs. diffuse light, we measured leaf reflectance and transmittance with an integrating sphere system using leaves with flat (Begonia erythrophylla, Citrus reticulata, and Ficus benjamina) and lens-shaped epidermal cells (B. bowerae, Colocasia esculenta, and Impatiens velvetea). In all species examined, more light was absorbed when leaves were irradiated with direct as opposed to diffuse light. When leaves were irradiated with diffuse light, more light was transmitted and more was reflected in both leaf types, resulting in absorptance values 2-3% lower than in leaves irradiated with direct light. These data suggest that lens-shaped epidermal cells do not aid the capture of diffuse light. Palisade and mesophyll cell anatomy and leaf thickness appear to have more influence in the capture and absorption of light than does epidermal cell shape.
American Journal of Botany
Long-distance transport of gases in plants: a perspective on internal aeration and radial oxygen loss from roots
Internal transport of gases is crucial for vascular plants inhabiting aquatic, wetland or flood-prone environments. Diffusivity of gases in water is approximately 10 000 times slower than in air; thus direct exchange of gases between submerged tissues and the environment is strongly impeded. Aerenchyma provides a low-resistance internal pathway for gas transport between shoot and root extremities. By this pathway, O2 is supplied to the roots and rhizosphere, while CO2, ethylene, and methane move from the soil to the shoots and atmosphere. Diffusion is the mechanism by which gases move within roots of all plant species, but significant pressurized through-flow occurs in stems and rhizomes of several emergent and floating-leaved wetland plants. Through-flows can raise O2 concentrations in the rhizomes close to ambient levels. In general, rates of flow are determined by plant characteristics such as capacity to generate positive pressures in shoot tissues, and resistance to flow in the aerenchyma, as well as environmental conditions affecting leaf-to-air gradients in humidity and temperature. O2 diffusion in roots is influenced by anatomical, morphological and physiological characteristics, and environmental conditions. Roots of many (but not all) wetland species contain large volumes of aerenchyma (e.g. root porosity can reach 55%), while a barrier impermeable to radial O2 loss (ROL) often occurs in basal zones. These traits act synergistically to enhance the amount of O2 diffusing to the root apex and enable the development of an aerobic rhizosphere around the root tip, which enhances root penetration into anaerobic substrates. The barrier to ROL in roots of some species is induced by growth in stagnant conditions, whereas it is constitutive in others. An inducible change in the resistance to O2 across the hypodermis/exodermis is hypothesized to be of adaptive significance to plants inhabiting transiently waterlogged soils. Knowledge on the anatomical basis of the barrier to ROL in various species is scant. Nevertheless, it has been suggested that the barrier may also impede influx of: (i) soil-derived gases, such as CO2, methane, and ethylene; (ii) potentially toxic substances (e.g. reduced metal ions) often present in waterlogged soils; and (iii) nutrients and water. Lateral roots, that remain permeable to O2, may be the main surface for exchange of substances between the roots and rhizosphere in wetland species. Further work is required to determine whether diversity in structure and function in roots of wetland species can be related to various niche habitats.
Plant Cell and Environment
To bend a coralline: effect of joint morphology on flexibility and stress amplification in an articulated calcified seaweed
SUMMARY Previous studies have demonstrated that fleshy seaweeds resist wave-induced drag forces in part by being flexible. Flexibility allows fronds to `go with the flow', reconfiguring into streamlined shapes and reducing frond area projected into flow. This paradigm extends even to articulated coralline algae, which produce calcified fronds that are flexible only because they have distinct joints (genicula). The evolution of flexibility through genicula was a major event that allowed articulated coralline algae to grow elaborate erect fronds in wave-exposed habitats. Here we describe the mechanics of genicula in the articulated coralline Calliarthron and demonstrate how segmentation affects bending performance and amplifies bending stresses within genicula. A numerical model successfully predicted deflections of articulated fronds by assuming genicula to be assemblages of cables connecting adjacent calcified segments (intergenicula). By varying the dimensions of genicula in the model, we predicted the optimal genicular morphology that maximizes flexibility while minimizing stress amplification. Morphological dimensions of genicula most prone to bending stresses (i.e. genicula near the base of fronds) match model predictions.
The Journal of Experimental Biology
Plant biomechanics: High-endurance algae
Breaking waves place repeated loading on marine algae, which can lead to death by fatigue. But observations of one alga suggest that its joint structure, which lacks transverse connections, confers fatigue resistance.
Electrical and behavioral courtship displays in the mormyrid fish Brienomyrus brachyistius
SUMMARY Mormyrid electric fish rely on the waveform of their electric organ discharges (EODs) for communicating species, sex, and social status, while they use the sequences of pulse intervals (SPIs) for communicating rapidly changing behavioral states and motivation. Little is known of electric signaling during courtship behavior because of two major difficulties: (1) the fish are not easily bred in captivity and (2) there is no reliable means of separating electric signals from several individuals in natural communication settings. Through simulating artificial rain conditions, we have successfully induced courtship and succeeded in breeding a mormyrid electric fish (Brienomyrus brachyistius) in the laboratory. We have also developed a system of video recording and editing combined with cross correlation analysis to precisely record and view behavior and separate EODs from two individuals in non-breeding and breeding contexts. Knowing the electrical and motor patterns during courtship allows for further exploration of topics such as mate choice and neural basis of pattern generation in these fish. Here we describe nine common motor displays and 11 SPIs. Analysis of frequency of occurrences suggests that some SPI patterns are sex and season specific. We also observed electrical duetting called `rasp matching' during courtship signaling among pairs; males and females exchange `rasps' and `bursts', respectively, in alternation. Our study employs new techniques to separate and document SPIs in the context of courtship. We show that some SPIs correlate with specific behavioral acts around the time of spawning.
The Journal of Experimental Biology
Aerodynamics of saccate pollen and its implications for wind pollination.
Pollen grains of many wind-pollinated plants contain 1-3 air-filled bladders, or sacci. Sacci are thought to help orient the pollen grain in the pollination droplet. Sacci also increase surface area of the pollen grain, yet add minimal mass, thereby increasing dispersal distance; however, this aerodynamic hypothesis has not been tested in a published study. Using scanning electron and transmission electron microscopy, mathematical modeling, and the saccate pollen of three extant conifers with structurally different pollen grains (Pinus, Falcatifolium, Dacrydium), we developed a computational model to investigate pollen flight. The model calculates terminal settling velocity based on structural characters of the pollen grain, including lengths, widths, and depths of the main body and sacci; angle of saccus rotation; and thicknesses of the saccus wall, endoreticulations, intine, and exine. The settling speeds predicted by the model were empirically validated by stroboscopic photography. This study is the first to quantitatively demonstrate the adaptive significance of sacci for the aerodynamics of wind pollination. Modeling pollen both with and without sacci indicated that sacci can reduce pollen settling speeds, thereby increasing dispersal distance, with the exception of pollen grains having robust endoreticulations and those with thick saccus walls. Furthermore, because the mathematical model is based on structural characters and error propagation methods show that the model yields valid results when sample sizes are small, the flight dynamics of fossil pollen can be investigated. Several fossils were studied, including bisaccate (Pinus, Pteruchus, Caytonanthus), monosaccate (Gothania), and nonsaccate (Monoletes) pollen types.
American Journal of Botany
Characterization of two new multiforms of Trametes pubescens laccase.
Electrochemical properties of two multiforms of laccase from Trametes pubescens basidiomycete (LAC1 and LAC2) have been studied. The standard redox potentials of the T1 sites of the enzymes were found to be 746 and 738 mV vs. NHE for LAC1 and LAC2, respectively. Bioelectroreduction of oxygen based on direct electron transfer between each of the two forms of Trametes pubescens laccase and spectrographic graphite electrodes has been demonstrated and studied. It is concluded that the T1 site of laccase is the first electron acceptor, both in solution (homogeneous case) and when the enzymes are adsorbed on the surface of the graphite electrode (heterogeneous case). Thus, the previously proposed mechanism of oxygen bioelectroreduction by adsorbed fungal laccase was additionally confirmed using two forms of the enzyme. Moreover, the assumed need for extracellular laccase to communicate directly and electronically with a solid matrix (lignin) in the course of lignin degradation is discussed. In summary, the possible roles of multiforms of the enzyme based on their electrochemical, biochemical, spectral, and kinetic properties have been suggested to consist in broadening of the substrate specificity of the enzyme, in turn yielding the possibility to dynamically regulate the process of lignin degradation according to the real-time survival needs of the organism.
Bioorganic Chemistry
Diel variation in ammonia excretion, glutamine levels, and hydration status in two species of terrestrial isopods
Terrestrial isopods (suborder Oniscidea) excrete most nitrogen diurnally as volatile ammonia, and ammonia-loaded animals accumulate nonessential amino acids, which may constitute the major nocturnal nitrogen pool. This study explored the relationship between ammonia excretion, glutamine storage/mobilization, and water balance, in two sympatric species Ligidium lapetum (section Diplocheta), a hygric species; and Armadillidium vulgare (Section Crinocheta), a xeric species capable of water-vapor absorption (WVA). Ammonia excretion (12-h), tissue glutamine levels, and water contents were measured following field collection of animals at dusk and dawn. In both species, diurnal ammonia excretion exceeded nocturnal excretion four- to fivefold while glutamine levels increased four- to sevenfold during the night. Most glutamine was accumulated in the somatic tissues (“body wall”). While data support the role of glutamine in nocturnal nitrogen storage, potential nitrogen mobilization from glutamine breakdown (162 μmol g−1 in A. vulgare) exceeds measured ammonia excretion (2.5 μmol g−1) over 60-fold. This may serve to generate the high hemolymph ammonia concentrations % MathType!Translator!2!1!AMS LaTeX.tdl!TeX -- AMS-LaTeX! % MathType!MTEF!2!1!+- % feaafeart1ev1aqatCvAUfeBSjuyZL2yd9gzLbvyNv2CaerbuLwBLn % hiov2DGi1BTfMBaeXatLxBI9gBaerbd9wDYLwzYbItLDharqqtubsr % 4rNCHbGeaGqiVu0Je9sqqrpepC0xbbL8F4rqqrFfpeea0xe9Lq-Jc9 % vqaqpepm0xbba9pwe9Q8fs0-yqaqpepae9pg0FirpepeKkFr0xfr-x % fr-xb9adbaqaaeGaciGaaiaabeqaamaabaabaaGcbaGaaiikaiaabg % gacaqGUbGaaeizaiaabccacaqGObGaaeyAaiaabEgacaqGObGaaGjb % VlaadcfadaWgaaWcbaGaaeOtaiaabIeadaWgaaadbaGaaG4maaqaba % aaleqaaOGaaiykaaaa!437A! $$({\text{and high}}\;P_{{\text{NH}}_3 } )$$ seen during volatilization. The energetic cost of ammonia volatilization is discussed in the light of these findings. Mean water contents were similar at dusk and dawn in both species, indicating that diel cycles of water depletion and replenishment were not occurring.
Journal of Comparative Physiology B-biochemical Systemic and Environmental Physiology
Biological Activities of Rice Allelochemicals Momilactone A and B
Momilactone A and B had been demonstrated to play critical roles in rice allelopathy by the findings of physiological and genetical approaches. Rice plants secrete momilactones into the rhizosphere over their entire life cycle at phytotoxic levels, and momilactones are able to account for the majority of the observed rice allelopathy. However, allelopathic activities of momilactones were determined on only a few test plant species. Therefore, this study was to determine the allelopathic activities of momilactones against nine test plant species including weed species, and four rice cultivars. Momilactone A and B inhibited Arabidopsis, alfalfa, lettuce, cress, timothy, barnyard grass, E. colonum, crabgrass and ryegrass at concentrations greater than 3 and 0.3 μM, respectively. The inhibition on those test plants was concentration dependent. On the other hand, effectiveness of momilactone A and B on rice cultivars, Koshihikari, Nipponbare, Norin 8 and Sasanishiki was very weak. Those rice cultivars were only inhibited by momilactone A and B at concentrations greater than 300 and 100 μM, respectively. Momilactone A and B may have potential as templates for the development of new plant control substances because of their selective inhibitory activities on weed plant species. More importantly, momilactone A and B as allelochemicals in rice may provide a molecular marker for breeding and/or engineering efforts directed at increasing allelopathic activity of this critical staple food crop.
Rice Research: Open Access
Seasonal Adjustment of Solar Heat Gain Independent of Coat Coloration in a Desert Mammal
Despite the apparent importance of solar radiation as a source of heat for free-living animals, there exists no substantial body of empirical data describing physiological responses to solar radiation under the range of convective conditions likely to occur in nature. We therefore quantified effects of simulated solar radiation and wind on metabolic heat production in the rock squirrel, Spermophilus variegatus. This diurnal mammal inhabits the Sonoran Desert and seasonally replaces its pelage in a fashion in which it retains constant external appearance but incorporates optical and structural changes that are thought to significantly alter heat-transfer properties of the coat. At a given wind speed, the presence of 950 W m⁻² of simulated solar radiation reduces metabolic heat production by 15% (at a wind speed of 4 m s⁻¹) to 37% (at a wind speed of 0.25 m s⁻¹). Independent of effects of irradiance, metabolic heat production significantly increases with wind speed such that as wind speed is increased from 0.25 m s⁻¹ to 4.0 m s⁻¹, metabolic heat production is elevated by 66% (sunlight absent) or 88% (sunlight present). Previous analyses demonstrated that when exposed to identical radiative and convective environments rock squirrels with summer pelages accrue solar heat loads 33%-71% lower than those experienced by animals with winter coats. This reduction of solar heat gain during the extremely hot Sonoran Desert summer apparently constitutes a previously unappreciated mode of thermal adaptation by seasonal adjustment of radiative heat gain without changes in the animal's appearance.
Physiological and Biochemical Zoology
Antipredator Mechanisms of Australian Frogs
We examined the antipredator mechanisms of 19 Australian hylid species (two genera) and 23 myobatrachid species (nine genera). Frogs of 39 of the 42 species exhibited one or more defensive mech- anisms (other than escape), including postures, bright coloration, adhesive skin secretions, and/or calls. De- fensive posturing occurred in individuals of 38 species, and varied in relationship to morphology and lo- calization of skin glands. Bright colors, when present, typically were displayed during defensive postures. We documented dramatic geographic variation in the antipredator display of one species, Limnodynastes tasmaniensis. Defensive postures were accompanied by secretions from dorsal skin glands. These secretions were sometimes associated with a distinctive odor. Adhesive skin secretions were present in burrowing frogs of three genera. Defensive calls were emitted by most hylids but none of the myobatrachids. We offer a hypothesis of mimicry to explain the behavior pattern of exposing the bold black and white ventral surface in Pseudophryne and Crinia species.
Journal of Herpetology
Microtubule Assembly Dynamics at the Nanoscale
BACKGROUND The labile nature of microtubules is critical for establishing cellular morphology and motility, yet the molecular basis of assembly remains unclear. Here we use optical tweezers to track microtubule polymerization against microfabricated barriers, permitting unprecedented spatial resolution. RESULTS We find that microtubules exhibit extensive nanometer-scale variability in growth rate and often undergo shortening excursions, in some cases exceeding five tubulin layers, during periods of overall net growth. This result indicates that the guanosine triphosphate (GTP) cap does not exist as a single layer as previously proposed. We also find that length increments (over 100 ms time intervals, n = 16,762) are small, 0.81 +/- 6.60 nm (mean +/- standard deviation), and very rarely exceed 16 nm (about two dimer lengths), indicating that assembly occurs almost exclusively via single-subunit addition rather than via oligomers as was recently suggested. Finally, the assembly rate depends only weakly on load, with the average growth rate decreasing only 2-fold as the force increases 7-fold from 0.4 pN to 2.8 pN. CONCLUSIONS The data are consistent with a mechanochemical model in which a spatially extended GTP cap allows substantial shortening on the nanoscale, while still preventing complete catastrophe in most cases.
Current Biology
Impact behaviour of freeze-dried and fresh pomelo (Citrus maxima) peel: influence of the hydration state
Pomelos (Citrus maxima) are known for their thick peel which—inter alia—serves as energy dissipator when fruits impact on the ground after being shed. It protects the fruit from splitting open and thus enables the contained seeds to stay germinable and to potentially be dispersed by animal vectors. The main part of the peel consists of a parenchymatous tissue that can be interpreted from a materials point of view as open pored foam whose struts are pressurized and filled with liquid. In order to investigate the influence of the water content on the energy dissipation capacity, drop weight tests were conducted with fresh and with freeze-dried peel samples. Based on the coefficient of restitution it was found that freeze-drying markedly reduces the relative energy dissipation capacity of the peel. Measuring the transmitted force during impact furthermore indicated a transition from a uniform collapse of the foam-like tissue to a progressive collapse due to water extraction. Representing the peel by a Maxwell model illustrates that freeze-drying not only drastically reduces the damping function of the dashpots but also stiffens the springs of the model.
Royal Society Open Science
First insights into the chemical defensive system of the erotylid beetle, Tritoma bipustulata
The present study provides the first insights into the chemical defensive system of the erotylid beetle, Tritoma bipustulata, and furthermore reports the previously hardly known ability of abdominal reflex bleeding in this coleopteran family. The defensive chemistry of the secretion of pronotal glands, abdominal reflex blood as well as of the haemolymph were analysed by GC-MS. The different secretions were dominated by aromatic compounds; in addition, we detected alkenes, ketones, organic acids as well as a single sesquiterpene. The majority of these detected compounds had strong antimicrobial properties in microbiological assays with entomopathogenic micro-organisms. In feeding bioassays with ants, only benzyl alcohol, benzothiazole, indole and 3-methylindole, detected in the abdominal reflex blood, were significantly deterrent.
Forisomes: calcium-powered protein complexes with potential as 'smart' biomaterials.
Sieve tubes in legumes contain forisomes, which are spindle-like bodies that are composed of ATP-independent, mechanically active proteins. Upon injury, forisomes occlude sieve tubes by dispersion and thus, help to prevent loss of nutrient-rich transport sap. Forisome enlargement by dispersion is brought about by Ca2+-induced conformational changes that confer radial expansion and longitudinal contraction. Forisomes recontract upon Ca2+ removal. In vitro, forisomes reversibly disperse and contract in the presence or absence of Ca2+, respectively, and at distinct pHs. Recently, forisomes have received renewed attention because of their unique capacity to convert chemical into mechanical energy independent of high-energy organic compounds. Forisome-based 'smart' materials can be used to produce self-powered monitoring and diagnostic systems. Here, we focus on physiological, chemical and physical aspects of forisomes and discuss their potential as biomimetic devices.
Trends in Biotechnology
The late Prof. A. H. R. Buller regarded certain cup-shaped reproductive bodies found among cryptogams as "splash-cups" which make use of the energy of raindrops for the dispersal of spores, sperms, and gemmae. Buller's concepts are presented and supplemented by investigations carried out since his death. Raindrops cause the peridioles of the Nidulariaceae or bird's-nest fungi to be thrown about four feet by splash action. In the genus Cyathus, as a peridiole is jerked out of its cup, the funiculus is torn and this makes possible the expansion of a mass of adhesive hyphae (the hapteron) which clings to any object in the line of flight. The momentum of the peridiole causes a long cord to be pulled out of a sheath attached to the peridiole. The peridiole is checked in flight and the jerk causes the funicular cord to become wound around stems or entangled among plant hairs. Thus the peridiole becomes attached to vegetation and may be eaten subsequently by herbivorous animals. Several morphological features of...
Cooperating to compete: altruism, sexual selection and causes of male reproductive cooperation
Competition among males for access to reproductive opportunities is a central tenet of behavioural biology that has critical implications for studies of mating systems, sexual selection and the evolution of numerous phenotypic traits. Given the expectation that males should compete vigorously for access to females, it may at first seem paradoxical that males in some species cooperate to reproduce, often resulting in the apparent sacrifice of direct fitness by some members of these cooperative partnerships. Because this form of cooperation lies at the interface between natural, sexual and kin selection, studies of the adaptive consequences of male reproductive cooperation may yield important insights into how complex and sometimes conflicting selective pressures shape individual behaviour. Here, we define and review examples of reproductive cooperation among male animals. We take an integrative approach to reviewing the potential causes of maleemale cooperation, including potential adaptive hypotheses, ecological correlates, phylogenetic patterns and physiological mechanisms. The impact of male reproductive cooperation on sexual selection theory is also discussed. We conclude by outlining several important directions for future research, including efforts to improve understanding of the ecological and demographic contexts in which male reproductive cooperation occurs. Collectively, such analyses promise to improve our understanding of multiple fundamental concepts in evolutionary biology. 2013 The Authors. Published on behalf of The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Animal Behaviour
Volumetric imaging of shark tail hydrodynamics reveals a three-dimensional dual-ring vortex wake structure
Understanding how moving organisms generate locomotor forces is fundamental to the analysis of aerodynamic and hydrodynamic flow patterns that are generated during body and appendage oscillation. In the past, this has been accomplished using two-dimensional planar techniques that require reconstruction of three-dimensional flow patterns. We have applied a new, fully three-dimensional, volumetric imaging technique that allows instantaneous capture of wake flow patterns, to a classic problem in functional vertebrate biology: the function of the asymmetrical (heterocercal) tail of swimming sharks to capture the vorticity field within the volume swept by the tail. These data were used to test a previous three-dimensional reconstruction of the shark vortex wake estimated from two-dimensional flow analyses, and show that the volumetric approach reveals a different vortex wake not previously reconstructed from two-dimensional slices. The hydrodynamic wake consists of one set of dual-linked vortex rings produced per half tail beat. In addition, we use a simple passive shark-tail model under robotic control to show that the three-dimensional wake flows of the robotic tail differ from the active tail motion of a live shark, suggesting that active control of kinematics and tail stiffness plays a substantial role in the production of wake vortical patterns.
Proceedings of The Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Colour-producing β-keratin nanofibres in blue penguin (Eudyptula minor) feathers
The colours of living organisms are produced by the differential absorption of light by pigments (e.g. carotenoids, melanins) and/or by the physical interactions of light with biological nanostructures, referred to as structural colours. Only two fundamental morphologies of non-iridescent nanostructures are known in feathers, and recent work has proposed that they self-assemble by intracellular phase separation processes. Here, we report a new biophotonic nanostructure in the non-iridescent blue feather barbs of blue penguins (Eudyptula minor) composed of parallel β-keratin nanofibres organized into densely packed bundles. Synchrotron small angle X-ray scattering and two-dimensional Fourier analysis of electron micrographs of the barb nanostructure revealed short-range order in the organization of fibres at the appropriate size scale needed to produce the observed colour by coherent scattering. These two-dimensional quasi-ordered penguin nanostructures are convergent with similar arrays of parallel collagen fibres in avian and mammalian skin, but constitute a novel morphology for feathers. The identification of a new class of β-keratin nanostructures adds significantly to the known mechanisms of colour production in birds and suggests additional complexity in their self-assembly.
Biology Letters
A lightweight, biological structure with tailored stiffness: The feather vane.
UNLABELLED The flying feathers of birds are keratinous appendages designed for maximum performance with a minimum weight penalty. Thus, their design contains ingenious combinations of components that optimize lift, stiffness, aerodynamics, and damage resistance. This design involves two main parts: a central shaft that prescribes stiffness and lateral vanes which allows for the capture of air. Within the feather vane, barbs branch from the shaft and barbules branch from barbs, forming a flat surface which ensures lift. Microhooks at the end of barbules hold barbs tightly together, providing the close-knit, unified structure of the feather vane and enabling a repair of the structure through the reattachment of un-hooked junctions. Both the shaft and barbs are lightweight biological structures constructed of keratin using the common motif of a solid shell and cellular interior. The cellular core increases the resistance to buckling with little added weight. Here we analyze the detailed structure of the feather barb and, for the first time, explain its flexural stiffness in terms of the mechanics of asymmetric foam-filled beams subjected to bending. The results are correlated and validated with finite element modeling. We compare the flexure of single barbs as well as arrays of barbs and find that the interlocking adherence of barbs to one another enables a more robust structure due to minimized barb rotation during deflection. Thus, the flexure behavior of the feather vane can be tailored by the adhesive hooking between barbs, creating a system that mitigates damage. A simplified three-dimensional physical model for this interlocking mechanism is constructed by additive manufacturing. The exceptional architecture of the feather vane will motivate the design of bioinspired structures with tailored and unique properties ranging from adhesives to aerospace materials. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE Despite its importance to bird flight, literature characterizing the feather vane is extremely limited. The feather vane is composed of barbs that branch from the main shaft (rachis) and barbules that branch from barbs. In this study, the flexural behavior of the feather barb and the role of barbule connections in reinforcing the feather vane are quantitatively investigated for the first time, both experimentally and theoretically. Through the performed experiments, structure-function relationships within the feather vane are uncovered. Additionally, in the proposed model the sophisticated structure of the barbs and the interlocking mechanism of the feather vane are simplified to understand these processes in order to engineer new lightweight structures and adhesives.
Acta Biomaterialia
Fatty Acids Identified in the Burmese Python Promote Beneficial Cardiac Growth
A specific set of circulating fatty acids triggers cardiac hypertrophy in snakes and mammals. Burmese pythons display a marked increase in heart mass after a large meal. We investigated the molecular mechanisms of this physiological heart growth with the goal of applying this knowledge to the mammalian heart. We found that heart growth in pythons is characterized by myocyte hypertrophy in the absence of cell proliferation and by activation of physiological signal transduction pathways. Despite high levels of circulating lipids, the postprandial python heart does not accumulate triglycerides or fatty acids. Instead, there is robust activation of pathways of fatty acid transport and oxidation combined with increased expression and activity of superoxide dismutase, a cardioprotective enzyme. We also identified a combination of fatty acids in python plasma that promotes physiological heart growth when injected into either pythons or mice.
Dynamic fracture resilience of elk antler: Biomimetic inspiration for improved crashworthiness
The antler of the North American elk has been shown to have impressive fracture resistance under quasi-static loads, but given its viscoelastic behavior and impact nature of loading, questions remain as to its mechanical, and in particular, fracture behavior under dynamic loading. Samples were tested using a unique split-pressure Hopkin-son bar (SPHB) for four-point bending experiments in order to measure the fracture toughness of this material Interestingly, the hierarchical structure of antler had a strong influence on crack propagation characteristics, and cracks tended to propagate along the osteonal growth direction, whether loaded parallel or perpendicular to the osteonal growth direction. This occurred to such a degree so as to stop all crack propagation through the sample on transverse specimens, thus inhibiting the ability to measure a valid crack initiation toughness and demonstrating the extreme resilience of antler to resist dynamic fracture. The high resilience of antler to impact loading may serve as biomimetic inspiration to future material development for crashworthiness and defense applications.
Lymphatic vascular morphogenesis in development, physiology, and disease
The lymphatic vasculature constitutes a highly specialized part of the vascular system that is essential for the maintenance of interstitial fluid balance, uptake of dietary fat, and immune response. Recently, there has been an increased awareness of the importance of lymphatic vessels in many common pathological conditions, such as tumor cell dissemination and chronic inflammation. Studies of embryonic development and genetically engineered animal models coupled with the discovery of mutations underlying human lymphedema syndromes have contributed to our understanding of mechanisms regulating normal and pathological lymphatic morphogenesis. It is now crucial to use this knowledge for the development of novel therapies for human diseases.
Journal of Cell Biology
Infrared receptors in pyrophilous (“fire loving”) insects as model for new un-cooled infrared sensors
Beetles of the genus Melanophila and certain flat bugs of the genus Aradus actually approach forest fires. For the detection of fires and of hot surfaces the pyrophilous species of both genera have developed infrared (IR) receptors, which have developed from common hair mechanoreceptors. Thus, this type of insect IR receptor has been termed photomechanic and shows the following two special features: (i) The formation of a complex cuticular sphere consisting of an outer exocuticular shell as well as of a cavernous microfluidic core and (ii) the enclosure of the dendritic tip of the mechanosensitive neuron inside the core in a liquid-filled chamber. Most probably a photomechanic IR sensillum acts as a microfluidic converter of infrared radiation which leads to an increase in internal pressure inside the sphere, which is measured by a mechanosensitive neuron. A simple model for this biological IR sensor is a modified Golay sensor in which the gas has been replaced by a liquid. Here, the absorbed IR radiation results in a pressure increase of the liquid and the deflection of a thin membrane. For the evaluation of this model analytical formulas are presented, which permits the calculation of the pressure increase in the cavity, the deformation of the membrane and the time constant of an artificial leak to compensate ambient temperature changes. Some organic liquids with high thermal expansion coefficients may improve the deflection of the membrane compared to water.
Beilstein Journal of Nanotechnology
Ice Nucleation Activity in Lichens
A newly discovered form of biological ice nucleus associated with lichens is described. Ice nucleation spectra of a variety of lichens from the southwestern United States were measured by the drop-freezing method. Several epilithic lichen samples of the genera Rhizoplaca, Xanthoparmelia, and Xanthoria had nuclei active at temperatures as warm as −2.3°C and had densities of 2.3 × 106 to more than 1 × 108 nuclei g−1 at −5°C (2 to 4 orders of magnitude higher than any plants infected with ice nucleation-active bacteria). Most lichens tested had nucleation activity above −8°C. Lichen substrates (rocks, plants, and soil) showed negligible activity above −8°C. Ice nucleation-active bacteria were not isolated from the lichens, and activity was not destroyed by heat (70°C) or sonication, indicating that lichen-associated ice nuclei are nonbacterial in origin and differ chemically from previously described biological ice nuclei. An axenic culture of the lichen fungus Rhizoplaca chrysoleuca showed detectable ice nucleation activity at −1.9°C and an ice nucleation density of 4.5 × 106 nuclei g−1 at −5°C. It is hypothesized that these lichens, which are both frost tolerant and dependent on atmospheric moisture, derive benefit in the form of increased moisture deposition as a result of ice nucleation.
Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Cold-adapted tubulins in the glacier ice worm, Mesenchytraeus solifugus.
Glacier ice worms, Mesenchytraeus solifugus and related species, are the only known annelids that survive obligately in glacier ice and snow. One fundamental component of cold temperature adaptation is the ability to polymerize tubulin, which typically depolymerizes at low physiological temperatures (e.g., <10 degrees C) in most temperate species. In this study, we isolated two alpha-tubulin (Msalpha1, Msalpha2) and two beta-tubulin (Msbeta1, Msbeta2) subunits from an ice worm cDNA library, and compared their predicted amino acid sequences with homologues from other cold-adapted organisms (e.g., Antarctic fish, ciliate) in an effort to identify species-specific amino acid substitutions that contribute to cold temperature-dependent tubulin polymerization. Our comparisons and predicted protein structures suggest that ice worm-specific amino acid substitutions stabilize lateral contact associations, particularly between beta-tubulin protofilaments, but these substitutions occur at different positions in comparison with other cold-adapted tubulins. The ice worm tubulin gene family appears relatively small, comprising one primary alpha- and one primary beta-tubulin monomers, though minor isoforms and pseudogenes were identified. Our analyses suggest that variation occurs in the strategies (i.e., species-specific amino acid substitutions, gene number) by which cold-adapted taxa have evolved the ability to polymerize tubulin at low physiological temperatures.
Loss of top-down biotic interactions changes the relative benefits for obligate mutualists
The collapse of mutualisms owing to anthropogenic changes is contributing to losses of biodiversity. Top predators can regulate biotic interactions between species at lower trophic levels and may contribute to the stability of such mutualisms, but they are particularly likely to be lost after disturbance of communities. We focused on the mutualism between the fig tree Ficus microcarpa and its host-specific pollinator fig wasp and compared the benefits accrued by the mutualists in natural and translocated areas of distribution. Parasitoids of the pollinator were rare or absent outside the natural range of the mutualists, where the relative benefits the mutualists gained from their interaction were changed significantly away from the plant's natural range owing to reduced seed production rather than increased numbers of pollinator offspring. Furthermore, in the absence of the negative effects of its parasitoids, we detected an oviposition range expansion by the pollinator, with the use of a wider range of ovules that could otherwise have generated seeds. Loss of top-down control has therefore resulted in a change in the balance of reciprocal benefits that underpins this obligate mutualism, emphasizing the value of maintaining food web complexity in the Anthropocene.
Proceedings of The Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Nesting biology of the mangrove mud-nesting ant Polyrhachis sokolova Forel (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) in northern Australia
Summary: The nest sites of the mud-nesting ant Polyrhachis sokolova were studied in Darwin Harbour mangroves. They were found from the Ceriops tagal zone to the Rhizophora stylosa zone at elevations ranging from 7.22 to 5.99 meters above the lowest astronomical tide (LAT), which means that the nests were inundated in 13‐61% of all high tides and for durations of up to 3.5 hours. The nest structure was studied by excavating nests and making a cast of the galleries using polyurethane foam. The nests were quite extensive, normally with two elevated nest entrances and galleries down to depths of 45 cm. The loose soil particles at the nest entrances collapsed when the tide reached them and formed a stopper which prevented water from intruding into the nest. In this way, the galleries remained dry during high tide. The ants showed a clear swimming or "walking on the surface" behaviour when they returned to the nest just before the entrance collapsed and during ebb. The tolerance of the ants to submergence was tested in the laboratory, with 50% mortality after 11 hours submergence in seawater at 23 °C, and only 3.5 hours in water at 33 °C. Therefore, the nesting behaviour with trapped air in the galleries is necessary for survival in these environments.
Insectes Sociaux
Capillarity-based switchable adhesion
Drawing inspiration from the adhesion abilities of a leaf beetle found in nature, we have engineered a switchable adhesion device. The device combines two concepts: The surface tension force from a large number of small liquid bridges can be significant (capillarity-based adhesion) and these contacts can be quickly made or broken with electronic control (switchable). The device grabs or releases a substrate in a fraction of a second via a low-voltage pulse that drives electroosmotic flow. Energy consumption is minimal because both the grabbed and released states are stable equilibria that persist with no energy added to the system. Notably, the device maintains the integrity of an array of hundreds to thousands of distinct interfaces during active reconfiguration from droplets to bridges and back, despite the natural tendency of the liquid toward coalescence. We demonstrate the scaling of adhesion strength with the inverse of liquid contact size. This suggests that strengths approaching those of permanent bonding adhesives are possible as feature size is scaled down. In addition, controllability is fast and efficient because the attachment time and required voltage also scale down favorably. The device features compact size, no solid moving parts, and is made of common materials.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Harbor seal vibrissa morphology suppresses vortex-induced vibrations
SUMMARY Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) often live in dark and turbid waters, where their mystacial vibrissae, or whiskers, play an important role in orientation. Besides detecting and discriminating objects by direct touch, harbor seals use their whiskers to analyze water movements, for example those generated by prey fish or by conspecifics. Even the weak water movements left behind by objects that have passed by earlier can be sensed and followed accurately (hydrodynamic trail following). While scanning the water for these hydrodynamic signals at a swimming speed in the order of meters per second, the seal keeps its long and flexible whiskers in an abducted position, largely perpendicular to the swimming direction. Remarkably, the whiskers of harbor seals possess a specialized undulated surface structure, the function of which was, up to now, unknown. Here, we show that this structure effectively changes the vortex street behind the whiskers and reduces the vibrations that would otherwise be induced by the shedding of vortices from the whiskers (vortex-induced vibrations). Using force measurements, flow measurements and numerical simulations, we find that the dynamic forces on harbor seal whiskers are, by at least an order of magnitude, lower than those on sea lion (Zalophus californianus) whiskers, which do not share the undulated structure. The results are discussed in the light of pinniped sensory biology and potential biomimetic applications.
The Journal of Experimental Biology
Rain-Harvesting in the Lizard, Phrynosoma cornutum: Behavior and Integumental Morphology
During rainstorms, Texas horned lizards in enclosures were observed to exhibit a stereotyped behavior termed "rain-harvesting." The behavior involves: (1) raising the abdomen in an arch; (2) splaying and extending the legs; (3) dorso-ventral flattening and lateral spreading of the body; (4) lowering the head and tail; (5) opening and closing the jaws; and (6) drinking water collected on the dorsal body surface. Ingestion of integumentally-derived water was verified by recovery of dyed water from the gut. SEM stereophotographs illustrate the interscalar channels through which water is carried, apparently by cap- illary action, over body surfaces to the jaws. During light rainfall water flow to the jaws occurs within interscalar channels, but during heavy rainfall gravitational sheet flow may increase the amount of water arriving at the jaws. This integumental rain-harvesting system is similar to reported interscalar water transport in two agamid lizards, Moloch horridus and Phrynocephalus helioscopus. Apparently, Phry- nosoma and P. helioscopus have similar behaviors for rain-harvesting. This is the first report to provide observations of a lizard obtaining water from natural precipitation for drinking by integumental inter- ception and transport.
Journal of Herpetology
How the Venus flytrap snaps
The rapid closure of the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) leaf in about 100 ms is one of the fastest movements in the plant kingdom. This led Darwin to describe the plant as “one of the most wonderful in the world”. The trap closure is initiated by the mechanical stimulation of trigger hairs. Previous studies have focused on the biochemical response of the trigger hairs to stimuli and quantified the propagation of action potentials in the leaves. Here we complement these studies by considering the post-stimulation mechanical aspects of Venus flytrap closure. Using high-speed video imaging, non-invasive microscopy techniques and a simple theoretical model, we show that the fast closure of the trap results from a snap-buckling instability, the onset of which is controlled actively by the plant. Our study identifies an ingenious solution to scaling up movements in non-muscular engines and provides a general framework for understanding nastic motion in plants.
Momilactone Sensitive Proteins in Arabidopsis thaliana
The labdane-related diterpenoid, momilactone B has potent growth inhibitory activity and was demonstrated to play a particularly critical role in the allelopathy of rice (Oryza sativa L.). However, there is limited information available about the mode of action of momilactone B on the growth inhibition. The present research describes the effects of momilactone B on protein expression in the early development of Arabidopsis thaliana seedling, which was determined by two-dimensional electrophoresis and MALDI-TOFMS. Momilactone B inhibited the accumulation of subtilisin-like serine protease, amyrin synthase LUP2, β-glucosidase and malate synthase at 1 h after the momilactone application. Those proteins are involved in the metabolic turnover and the production of intermediates needed for cell structures resulting in plant growth and development. Momilactone B also inhibited the breakdown of cruciferin 2, which is essential for seed germination and seedling growth to construct cell structures. Momilactone B induced the accumulation of translationally controlled tumor protein, glutathione S-transferase and 1-cysteine peroxiredoxin 1. These proteins are involved in stress responses and increased stress tolerance. In addition, glutathione S-transferase has the activity of herbicide detoxification and 1-cysteine peroxiredoxin 1 has inhibitory activity for seed germination under unfavorable conditions. The present research suggests that momilactone B may inhibit the seedling growth by the inhibition of the metabolic turnover and the production of intermediates for cell structures. In addition, momilactone induced proteins associated with plant defense responses.
Natural Product Communications
Rain-drinking behaviors of the Australian thorny devil (Sauria: Agamidae)
During natural and simulated rainfall, Moloch horridus used the cutaneous surface of its integument as a water-harvesting system to capture rain water for drinking. Circumstantial behavioral evidence, in combination with experimental studies (Withers, 1993), suggests that the capillary, interscalar, water-transport system of Moloch is also used to absorb water for drinking from rain-moistened substrates. Lizards rub their venters against wet substrates and dig sand onto their backs. This is a previously unreported behavior for water acquisition by lizards inhabiting arid regions. No stereotypic behavioral stance for rain harvesting, as seen in Phrynocephalus helioscopus and Phrynosoma cornutum, was observed in Moloch horridus
Journal of Herpetology
Effect of catch bonding on transport of cellular cargo by dynein motors.
Recent experiments have demonstrated that dynein motors exhibit catch bonding behavior, in which the unbinding rate of a single dynein decreases with increasing force, for a certain range of force. Motivated by these experiments, we study the effect of catch bonding on unidirectional transport properties of cellular cargo carried by multiple dynein motors. We introduce a threshold force bond deformation (TFBD) model, consistent with the experiments, wherein catch bonding sets in beyond a critical applied load force. We find catch bonding can result in dramatic changes in the transport properties, which are in sharp contrast to kinesin-driven unidirectional transport, where catch bonding is absent. We predict that under certain conditions, the average velocity of the cellular cargo can actually increase as applied load is increased. We characterize the transport properties in terms of a velocity profile plot in the parameter space of the catch bond strength and the stall force of the motor. This plot yields predictions that may be experimentally accessed by suitable modifications of motor transport and binding properties.
Physical Review E
Defining frontiers in mite and frog alkaloid research
Raspotnig et al. [[1][1]] comment on our recent finding of skin alkaloids in miniaturized Eleutherodactylus frogs from Cuba, which might be taken up from the high proportion of mites among their prey [[2][2]]. They provide a summary of current knowledge about alkaloid content and alkaloid
Biology Letters
Molecular mechanisms of synovial joint lubrication
Abstract Current models for lubrication of synovial joints, and the nature of the cartilage surface, are briefly recalled. Direct friction studies between polymers attached to surfaces are then considered, particularly the very recent demonstration of extreme friction reduction enabled by hydrated ions and by charged polymers. It is proposed that the extremely efficient lubrication observed in living joints arises from the presence of a brush-like phase of charged macromolecules at the surface of the superficial zone. This phase forms when charged macromolecules, including lubricin, superficial-zone protein, and aggrecan, cross the interface between the superficial zone and the synovial cavity as they are secreted into the synovium from within the bulk of the cartilage, and, in particular, the feasibility of such brush-like surface-phases is examined in some detail. The molecular mechanisms for the reduction in friction are proposed to be similar to those recently revealed using surface force balance studies on lubrication by charged brushes.
Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part J: Journal of Engineering Tribology
Elastic instability model of rapid beak closure in hummingbirds.
The hummingbird beak, specialized for feeding on floral nectars, is also uniquely adapted to eating flying insects. During insect capture the beak often appears to close at a rate that cannot be explained by direct muscular action alone. Here we show that the lower jaw of hummingbirds has a shape and compliance that allows for a controlled elastic snap. Furthermore, hummingbirds have the musculature needed to independently bend and twist the sides of the lower jaw. According to both our simple physical model and our elastic instability calculation, the jaw can be smoothly opened and then snapped closed through an appropriate sequence of bending and twisting actions by the muscles of the lower jaw.
Journal of Theoretical Biology
Evidence for a vertebrate catapult: elastic energy storage in the plantaris tendon during frog jumping
Anuran jumping is one of the most powerful accelerations in vertebrate locomotion. Several species are hypothesized to use a catapult-like mechanism to store and rapidly release elastic energy, producing power outputs far beyond the capability of muscle. Most evidence for this mechanism comes from measurements of whole-body power output; the decoupling of joint motion and muscle shortening expected in a catapult-like mechanism has not been demonstrated. We used high-speed marker-based biplanar X-ray cinefluoroscopy to quantify plantaris muscle fascicle strain and ankle joint motion in frogs in order to test for two hallmarks of a catapult mechanism: (i) shortening of fascicles prior to joint movement (during tendon stretch), and (ii) rapid joint movement during the jump without rapid muscle-shortening (during tendon recoil). During all jumps, muscle fascicles shortened by an average of 7.8 per cent (54% of total strain) prior to joint movement, stretching the tendon. The subsequent period of initial joint movement and high joint angular acceleration occurred with minimal muscle fascicle length change, consistent with the recoil of the elastic tendon. These data support the plantaris longus tendon as a site of elastic energy storage during frog jumping, and demonstrate that catapult mechanisms may be employed even in sub-maximal jumps.
Biology Letters
Chemical Identity of a Rotting Animal-Like Odor Emitted from the Inflorescence of the Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum)
The titan arum, Amorphophallus titanum, is a flowering plant with the largest inflorescence in the world. The flower emits a unique rotting animal-like odor that attracts insects for pollination. To determine the chemical identity of this characteristic odor, we performed gas chromatography-mass spectrometry-olfactometry analysis of volatiles derived from the inflorescence. The main odorant causing the smell during the flower-opening phase was identified as dimethyl trisulfide, a compound with a sulfury odor that has been found to be emitted from some vegetables, microorganisms, and cancerous wounds.
Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry
Resilience in social insect infrastructure systems
Both human and insect societies depend on complex and highly coordinated infrastructure systems, such as communication networks, supply chains and transportation networks. Like human-designed infrastructure systems, those of social insects are regularly subject to disruptions such as natural disasters, blockages or breaks in the transportation network, fluctuations in supply and/or demand, outbreaks of disease and loss of individuals. Unlike human-designed systems, there is no deliberate planning or centralized control system; rather, individual insects make simple decisions based on local information. How do these highly decentralized, leaderless systems deal with disruption? What factors make a social insect system resilient, and which factors lead to its collapse? In this review, we bring together literature on resilience in three key social insect infrastructure systems: transportation networks, supply chains and communication networks. We describe how systems differentially invest in three pathways to resilience: resistance, redirection or reconstruction. We suggest that investment in particular resistance pathways is related to the severity and frequency of disturbance. In the final section, we lay out a prospectus for future research. Human infrastructure networks are rapidly becoming decentralized and interconnected; indeed, more like social insect infrastructures. Human infrastructure management might therefore learn from social insect researchers, who can in turn make use of the mature analytical and simulation tools developed for the study of human infrastructure resilience.
Journal of the Royal Society Interface
Experimental Studies and Dynamics Modeling Analysis of the Swimming and Diving of Whirligig Beetles (Coleoptera: Gyrinidae)
Whirligig beetles (Coleoptera, Gyrinidae) can fly through the air, swiftly swim on the surface of water, and quickly dive across the air-water interface. The propulsive efficiency of the species is believed to be one of the highest measured for a thrust generating apparatus within the animal kingdom. The goals of this research were to understand the distinctive biological mechanisms that allow the beetles to swim and dive, while searching for potential bio-inspired robotics applications. Through static and dynamic measurements obtained using a combination of microscopy and high-speed imaging, parameters associated with the morphology and beating kinematics of the whirligig beetle's legs in swimming and diving were obtained. Using data obtained from these experiments, dynamics models of both swimming and diving were developed. Through analysis of simulations conducted using these models it was possible to determine several key principles associated with the swimming and diving processes. First, we determined that curved swimming trajectories were more energy efficient than linear trajectories, which explains why they are more often observed in nature. Second, we concluded that the hind legs were able to propel the beetle farther than the middle legs, and also that the hind legs were able to generate a larger angular velocity than the middle legs. However, analysis of circular swimming trajectories showed that the middle legs were important in maintaining stable trajectories, and thus were necessary for steering. Finally, we discovered that in order for the beetle to transition from swimming to diving, the legs must change the plane in which they beat, which provides the force required to alter the tilt angle of the body necessary to break the surface tension of water. We have further examined how the principles learned from this study may be applied to the design of bio-inspired swimming/diving robots.
PLOS Computational Biology
Design and mechanical properties of insect cuticle.
Since nearly all adult insects fly, the cuticle has to provide a very efficient and lightweight skeleton. Information is available about the mechanical properties of cuticle-Young's modulus of resilin is about 1 MPa, of soft cuticles about 1 kPa to 50 MPa, of sclerotised cuticles 1-20 GPa; Vicker's Hardness of sclerotised cuticle ranges between 25 and 80 kgf mm(-2); density is 1-1.3 kg m(-3)-and one of its components, chitin nanofibres, the Young's modulus of which is more than 150 GPa. Experiments based on fracture mechanics have not been performed although the layered structure probably provides some toughening. The structural performance of wings and legs has been measured, but our understanding of the importance of buckling is lacking: it can stiffen the structure (by elastic postbuckling in wings, for example) or be a failure mode. We know nothing of fatigue properties (yet, for instance, the insect wing must undergo millions of cycles, flexing or buckling on each cycle). The remarkable mechanical performance and efficiency of cuticle can be analysed and compared with those of other materials using material property charts and material indices. Presented in this paper are four: Young's modulus-density (stiffness per unit weight), specific Young's modulus-specific strength (elastic hinges, elastic energy storage per unit weight), toughness-Young's modulus (fracture resistance under various loading conditions), and hardness (wear resistance). In conjunction with a structural analysis of cuticle these charts help to understand the relevance of microstructure (fibre orientation effects in tendons, joints and sense organs, for example) and shape (including surface structure) of this fibrous composite for a given function. With modern techniques for analysis of structure and material, and emphasis on nanocomposites and self-assembly, insect cuticle should be the archetype for composites at all levels of scale.
Arthropod Structure & Development
Male Eufriesia purpurata, a DDT-collecting euglossine bee in Brazil
While studying the ecology of the malaria vector Anopheles (Nyssorhynchus) darlingi Root along the Ituxi River, Amazonas, Brazil, we observed aggregates of bees on the walls of houses that were routinely sprayed with DDT. Several bees collected from DDT-treated house walls in August 1978 were identified as male specimens of Eufriesia purpurata (Moscary) of the tribe Euglossini (Hymenoptera: Apoidae). (The bees were identified as Euplusia purpurata by Anthony Raw, Laboratorio de Ecologia, Universidade de Brasilia. The change of generic name from Euplusia to Eufriesia is based on ref. 1.) These bees were well known to the local residents as the insects that eat DDT and we present here the first documentation that they (1) are attracted to DDT, (2) actively collect large quantities of DDT from treated house walls and (3) suffer no apparent insecticidal effects. We also found that the frequency of house visiting is most intense during July to September. Most bees arrive at houses before 12.00 h, remain 2–3 h and return on subsequent days to collect more DDT. Noise produced by bees as they collected DDT was a notable disturbance to 76% of 21 families interviewed along the Ituxi River.
Brain Cooling: An Economy Mode of Temperature Regulation in Artiodactyls.
Artiodactyls employ selective brain cooling (SBC) regularly during experimental hyperthermia. In free-ranging antelopes, however, SBC often was present when body temperature was low but absent when brain temperature was near 42 degrees C. The primary effect of SBC is to adjust the activity of the heat loss mechanisms to the magnitude of the heat stress rather than to the protection of the brain from thermal damage.
Desert locust gregarization: a conceptual kinetic model
Abstract A better understanding of the mechanisms that underlie phase transformation in a solitarious desert locust population is an important prerequisite for the development of a quantitative gregarization model and for predicting locust outbreaks. Two types of processes are involved: 1) clustering at diminishing spatial scales, which brings dispersed locusts together and which, in patchy micro-environments with a concentrated food resource, gives rise to nuclei of pheromone-emitting, gregarizing insects; and 2) recruitment processes which promote the horizontal spread of gregarious traits from such nuclei. Because of the heterogeneity of typical breeding habitats and divergent behavior of the 2 phases of the insect, there is a dynamic interplay between the forces of crowd formation and those of dispersal. All the key steps in the course of phase change are reversible and for successful development of a viable gregarious population, all must proceed at optimal pace toward the gregarious phase. The process resembles a chemical transformation that involves a series of reversible sequential steps and may, likewise, be treated as a series of equilibria. Such a conceptual model may constitute a useful framework for quantitative studies in desert locust primary breeding areas and in the development of a predictive gregarization model.
Journal of Orthoptera Research
Nanoscale biomimetics studies of Salvinia molesta for micropattern fabrication.
The emerging field of biomimetics allows one to take inspiration from nature and mimic it in order to create various products, devices and structures. There are a large number of objects, including bacteria, plants, land and aquatic animals and seashells, with properties of commercial interest. The subject of interest for this research is the water fern Salvinia molesta because of its ability to trap air. Air-retaining surfaces are of technological interest due to their ability to reduce drag when used for fluid transport, ship coatings and other submersible industrial products in which drag is a concern. The purpose of this research is to mimic the air trapping ability of S. molesta in order to prove that a structure can be created in the lab that can mimic the behavior of the fern as well as demonstrate microfabrication techniques that can be utilized in industry to produce such materials. In this work, a novel methodology for the fabrication of microstructures that mimic the water-pinning and air-trapping ability of S. molesta is introduced. Water contact angle, water roll angle and adhesive force of the new microstructure and water fern are investigated.
Joint International Conference on Information Sciences
Biology Reveals New Ways to Hold on Tight
At an unusual recent meeting, biologists and materials scientists swapped notes about how natural and artificial adhesives work. The materials scientists discussed physical or chemical properties that biologists should consider as they try to figure out how nature performs its sticky tricks. The biologists described how various organisms stay put. By bringing the two disciplines together, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which funded the symposium, hoped to stimulate insights that might one day lead to more effective adhesives.
Regulation of brain temperature in winter-acclimatized reindeer under heat stress
SUMMARY Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) are protected against the Arctic winter cold by thick fur of prime insulating capacity and hence have few avenues of heat loss during work. We have investigated how these animals regulate brain temperature under heavy heat loads. Animals were instrumented for measurements of blood flow, tissue temperatures and respiratory frequency (f) under full anaesthesia, whereas measurements were also made in fully conscious animals while in a climatic chamber or running on a treadmill. At rest, brain temperature (Tbrain) rose from 38.5±0.1°C at 10°C to 39.5±0.2°C at 50°C, while f increased from ×7 to ×250 breaths min–1, with a change to open-mouth panting (OMP) at Tbrain 39.0±0.1°C, and carotid and sublingual arterial flows increased by 160% and 500%, respectively. OMP caused jugular venous and carotid arterial temperatures to drop, presumably owing to a much increased respiratory evaporative heat loss. Angular oculi vein (AOV) flow was negligible until Tbrain reached 38.9±0.1°C, but it increased to 0.81 ml min–1 kg–1 at Tbrain 39.2±0.2°C. Bilateral occlusion of both AOVs induced OMP and a rise in Tbrain and f at Tbrain >38.8°C. We propose that reindeer regulate body and, particularly, brain temperature under heavy heat loads by a combination of panting, at first through the nose, but later, when the heat load and the minute volume requirements increase due to exercise, primarily through the mouth and that they eventually resort to selective brain cooling.
The Journal of Experimental Biology
Lymphatic collecting vessel maturation and valve morphogenesis.
The lymphatic vasculature plays an essential role in the maintenance of tissue interstitial fluid balance and in the immune response. After capture of fluids, proteins and antigens by lymphatic capillaries, lymphatic collecting vessels ensure lymph transport. An important component to avoid lymph backflow and to allow a unidirectional flow is the presence of intraluminal valves. Defects in the function of collecting vessels lead to lymphedema. Several important factors and signaling pathways involved in lymphatic collecting vessel maturation and valve morphogenesis have now been discovered. The present review summarizes the current knowledge about the key steps of lymphatic collecting vessel development and maturation and focuses on the regulatory mechanisms involved in lymphatic valve formation.
Microvascular Research
Osmotic adjustment and plant adaptation to environmental changes related to drought and salinity.
The salinization and water deficit of soil are widespread environmental problems in limiting plant survival, growth, and productivity. However, some plants could adopt some strategies to resist salinity and drought stresses. Among these strategies, the mechanism of osmotic adjustment could help plants and algae to avoid ion toxicity and maintain water uptake in both stresses by accumulating large quantities of osmolytes. Two types of osmolytes, organic solutes and inorganic ions, play a key role in osmotic adjustment. Different osmolytes and their osmotic adjustment actions are different according to their distribution in different plants. Organic solutes, known as compatible solutes, include amino acids, glycerol, sugars, and other low molecular weight metabolites, serve a function in cells to lower or balance the osmotic potential of intracellular and extracellular ions in resistance to osmotic stresses. Inorganic ions for osmotic adjustment are mainly Na+, K+, Ca2+, and Cl–. Inorganic ions make great c...
Environmental Reviews
Electron transfer in syntrophic communities of anaerobic bacteria and archaea
Interspecies electron transfer is a key process in methanogenic and sulphate-reducing environments. Bacteria and archaea that live in syntrophic communities take advantage of the metabolic abilities of their syntrophic partner to overcome energy barriers and break down compounds that they cannot digest by themselves. Here, we review the transfer of hydrogen and formate between bacteria and archaea that helps to sustain growth in syntrophic methanogenic communities. We also describe the process of reverse electron transfer, which is a key requirement in obligately syntrophic interactions. Anaerobic methane oxidation coupled to sulphate reduction is also carried out by syntrophic communities of bacteria and archaea but, as we discuss, the exact mechanism of this syntrophic interaction is not yet understood.
Nature Reviews Microbiology
An insect trap as habitat: cohesion-failure mechanism prevents adhesion of Pameridea roridulae bugs to the sticky surface of the plant Roridula gorgonias
SUMMARY The glandular trichomes of the plant Roridula gorgonias release an extremely adhesive, visco-elastic, resinous secretion that traps a variety of insects, including those having a considerable body size. However, the specialized mutualistic mirid bug Pameridea roridulae lives and walks on this sticky plant surface without being trapped. We have sought to reveal the mechanism underlying the apparent non-sticky nature of the cuticle of this bug. In this study, we have visualized intact plant and insect surfaces using cryo-scanning electron microscopy and measured the adhesive properties of the plant secretion on different surfaces. We present a combination of structural and experimental results that suggest that a thick and cohesively weak film of an outermost, epicuticular greasy secretion acts as a `sloughing-off' layer, preventing the formation of contacts between the sticky plant secretion and the solid insect cuticle. In a comparative study of fresh cuticle fractures of flies representing a typical prey of R. gorgonias, a thin, fragmentary layer of epicuticular grease was revealed. These results indicate that, when trapping prey, the plant adhesive might form proper contact with solid islands of the insect cuticle that are free of epicuticular grease.
The Journal of Experimental Biology
Taste perception in honeybees: just a taste of honey?
The advent of the genomic era has opened new doors to understand the fundamental organization of living organisms and has therefore promoted a fertile field of comparative research that intends to identify similarities and differences between related and unrelated species at the genomic level. One of the organisms whose genome has been recently decoded is that of the honeybee Apis mellifera, enabling a direct comparison with another well-studied insect, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. It was reported that the honeybee has only ten gustatory receptors and thus a very poor taste perception compared to Drosophila, which presents 68 gustatory receptors, and the mosquito Anopheles gambiae, which presents 76 gustatory receptors. In this forum article, we discuss the implications of these findings taking into account previous and new discoveries on honeybee gustation based on behavioral and neurobiological studies by several authors and us. We conclude that the world of taste of a honeybee might not be as poor as proposed and that further studies should integrate molecular, neurobiological, behavioral and ecological approaches to better characterize taste perception in bees.
Arthropod-plant Interactions
The Functional Morphology of Starfish Tube Feet: The Role of a Crossed-Fiber Helical Array in Movement.
The morphology and mechanics of the tube feet, ampullae, and lateral and radial canals of the water vascular systems of Luidia clathrata and Astropecten articulatus (Echinodermata, Asteroidea) were analyzed. Histological methods, based on embedding in both paraffin and glycol methacrylate, were used to document the arrangement of muscle and connective tissue. The tube foot wall includes longitudinal muscles and connective tissue fibers, the latter arranged in a crossed-fiber helical array, with a fiber angle of about 67{deg} in elongated tube feet. No evidence was found for the circular rings of connective tissue reported in earlier studies; the appearance of rings is probably an artifact of folding. The ampullae are bilobed and include circumferentially arranged muscle fibers and connective tissue fibers aligned 90{deg} to the muscle. The lateral canals are short and equipped with oneway flap valves similar to those described for other echinoderms. The radial canal is thin-walled, nonmuscular, and enclosed in the connective tissue and ossicles of the ambulacrum. Frame-by-frame video analysis of both intact animals and animals with "windows" cut in the arm wall was used to document the movements of the tube feet and ampullae. No evidence was found for the previously suggested role of the radial canal in protracting the tube feet. The ampullae protract the tube feet and antagonize the tube foot musculature. The fiber angle of the connective tissue allows protraction and prevents dilation of the tube feet, and limits elongation of the ampullae.
The Biological Bulletin
How ticks get under your skin: insertion mechanics of the feeding apparatus of Ixodes ricinus ticks
The tick Ixodes ricinus uses its mouthparts to penetrate the skin of its host and to remain attached for about a week, during which time Lyme disease spirochaetes may pass from the tick to the host. To understand how the tick achieves both tasks, penetration and attachment, with the same set of implements, we recorded the insertion events by cinematography, interpreted the mouthparts’ function by scanning electron microscopy and identified their points of articulation by confocal microscopy. Our structural dynamic observations suggest that the process of insertion and attachment occurs via a ratchet-like mechanism with two distinct stages. Initially, the two telescoping chelicerae pierce the skin and, by moving alternately, generate a toehold. Subsequently, a breaststroke-like motion, effected by simultaneous flexure and retraction of both chelicerae, pulls in the barbed hypostome. This combination of a flexible, dynamic mechanical ratchet and a static holdfast thus allows the tick to solve the problem of how to penetrate skin and also remain stuck for long periods of time.
Proceedings of The Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Mechanism of Closure of the Aortic Valve
THE human aortic valve consists of three cusps made of relatively inelastic, muscle-free material about 0.15 mm thick. It opens and shuts about once a second, and withstands a pressure difference of 100 mm of mercury when closed. It usually functions for 70 yr without failure, and works so efficiently that very little blood is regurgitated at each pulse. In order to support this large pressure difference, the cusps must close simultaneously in all operating conditions and should not touch the wall of the aorta, for considerable reversed flow would then be required to close the valve. This action suggests a fluid dynamic control mechanism which positions the cusps away from the wall of the aorta, so that the slightest reversed flow will close the valve.
Superhydrophobic and superhydrophilic plant surfaces: an inspiration for biomimetic materials
The diversity of plant surface structures, evolved over 460 million years, has led to a large variety of highly adapted functional structures. The plant cuticle provides structural and chemical modifications for surface wetting, ranging from superhydrophilic to superhydrophobic. In this paper, the structural basics of superhydrophobic and superhydrophilic plant surfaces and their biological functions are introduced. Wetting in plants is influenced by the sculptures of the cells and by the fine structure of the surfaces, such as folding of the cuticle, or by epicuticular waxes. Hierarchical structures in plant surfaces are shown and further types of plant surface structuring leading to superhydrophobicity and superhydrophilicity are presented. The existing and potential uses of superhydrophobic and superhydrophilic surfaces for self-cleaning, drag reduction during moving in water, capillary liquid transport and other biomimetic materials are shown.
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A
Synaptotagmins: Why So Many?*
Journal of Biological Chemistry
Localized fluidization burrowing mechanics of Ensis directus
SUMMARY Muscle measurements of Ensis directus, the Atlantic razor clam, indicate that the organism only has sufficient strength to burrow a few centimeters into the soil, yet razor clams burrow to over 70 cm. In this paper, we show that the animal uses the motions of its valves to locally fluidize the surrounding soil and reduce burrowing drag. Substrate deformations were measured using particle image velocimetry (PIV) in a novel visualization system that enabled us to see through the soil and watch E. directus burrow in situ. PIV data, supported by soil and fluid mechanics theory, show that contraction of the valves of E. directus locally fluidizes the surrounding soil. Particle and fluid mixtures can be modeled as a Newtonian fluid with an effective viscosity based on the local void fraction. Using these models, we demonstrate that E. directus is strong enough to reach full burrow depth in fluidized soil, but not in static soil. Furthermore, we show that the method of localized fluidization reduces the amount of energy required to reach burrow depth by an order of magnitude compared with penetrating static soil, and leads to a burrowing energy that scales linearly with depth rather than with depth squared.
The Journal of Experimental Biology
Plant hydraulics: The ascent of water
When you're a large organism and made of wood, you can't have a heart or other contractile organs, but you still need to move fluids to live. How is this done?
Small molecules that modulate quorum sensing and control virulence in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
Bacteria use small molecule signals to access their local population densities in a process called quorum sensing (QS). Once a threshold signal concentration is reached, and therefore a certain number of bacteria have assembled, bacteria use QS to change gene expression levels and initiate behaviors that benefit the group. These group processes play central roles in both bacterial virulence and symbiosis and can have significant impacts on human health, agriculture, and the environment. The dependence of QS on small molecule signals has inspired organic chemists to design non-native molecules that can intercept these signals and thereby perturb bacterial group behaviors. The opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa has been the target of many of these efforts due to its prevalence in human infections. P. aeruginosa uses at least two N-acyl l-homoserine lactone signals and three homologous LuxR-type receptors to initiate a range of pathogenic behaviors at high cell densities, including biofilm formation and the production of an arsenal of virulence factors. This perspective highlights recent chemical efforts to modulate LuxR-type receptor activity in P. aeruginosa and offers insight into the development of receptor-specific ligands as potential antivirulence strategies.
Journal of Organic Chemistry
Structural coloration in nature
Nature's color has three main sources: pigments, structural colors and bioluminescence. Structural color is a special one, which is the color produced by micro- or nano-structures, and is bright and dazzling. The most common mechanisms of structural colors are film interference, diffraction grating, scattering and photonic crystals. Biological colors are mainly derived from film interference, which includes thin-film and multi-film interference. The diffraction grating mechanism is found in, for example, seed shrimp, mollusk Haliotis Glabra and the Hibiscus trionum flower. Scattering includes coherent and incoherent scattering. Well-known examples of coherent scattering include colors produced by brilliant iridescent butterfly wing scales and avian feather barbules, such as the peacock's tail. Examples of colors produced by photonic crystal structures include opal in beetles and iridescent spines in the sea mouse. Coloration changes occur through structural changes for camouflage, predation, signal communication and sex choice. This paper presents an overview of lessons from nature and various relevant mechanisms. Examples of bioinspired fabrication methods and applications are also presented in this paper.
RSC Advances
The functional morphology of the petioles of the banana, Musa textilis.
Bananas are among the largest herbs in the world and their lightweight petioles hold up huge leaves. This study examined how the petioles manage to achieve adequate rigidity to do this, while allowing extensive and reversible reconfiguration in high winds. Morphological and anatomical examination of the petioles and leaves of Musa textilis suggested how these two apparently incompatible abilities are achieved. The hollow U-shaped section of the petiole and the longitudinal strengthening elements in its outer skin give it adequate rigidity, while its ventral curvature help support the leaf without the need for thick lateral veins. These features, however, also allow the petiole to reconfigure by twisting away from the wind, while the leaf can fold away. In addition, two sets of internal structures, longitudinal partitions and transverse stellate parenchyma plates, help prevent dorsoventral flattening, allowing the petiole to flex further away from the wind without buckling. These ideas were tested and verified by a range of mechanical tests. Simple four-point-bending and torsion tests showed that the petioles are indeed far more compliant in torsion than in bending. Axial bending tests and crushing tests showed that petioles could be flexed twice as far and were four times as resistant to dorsoventral flattening when intact than when the internal tissue is removed. The banana petiole, therefore, seems to be an excellent example of natural integrated mechanical design.
Journal of Experimental Botany
Assessment of the Phytotoxic Potential of m-Tyrosine in Laboratory Soil Bioassays
The significance of soil-allelochemical interactions was addressed in this paper through studies conducted with m-tyrosine, an amino acid analogue and a potent plant growth inhibitor, in a series of laboratory assays performed in field soil or growth media. The studies were performed as a basis for further evaluation of m-tyrosine activity in field soils containing living plant roots. Here, we examined the role of common soil amendments, including ammonium nitrate fertilizer and activated carbon, in overcoming plant growth inhibition in soils in a laboratory setting by using lettuce as a sensitive indicator of plant toxicity. The phytotoxicity of m-tyrosine was not influenced significantly by soil N amendment; however, when significant amounts of activated carbon were added to the soil medium, growth inhibition in treated lettuce seedlings was strongly reduced. Soil texture did not influence the bioavailability or activity of m-tyrosine, as activity in high organic growth media was similar to that of sand and soil mixtures. Similar to other purported allelochemicals, soil persistence of m-tyrosine was limited, with a predicted half life of less than 1 day in soil in a controlled laboratory setting. Rapid degradation of this molecule likely was due to microbial activity but degradation did not appear to be influenced significantly by soil N amendment. Given the observed activity of m-tyrosine in soil and growth media on seedling growth, potential may exist for development of m-tyrosine as a soil applied herbicide if formulations can be stabilized under soil conditions.
Journal of Chemical Ecology
Iron-Clad Fibers: A Metal-Based Biological Strategy for Hard Flexible Coatings
Mussel Fibers While it is possible to make strong fibers or threads from organic materials, most suffer from high wear abrasion. Marine mussels attach themselves to rocky seashores using a series of byssal threads. Despite the constant rubbing caused by the motion of the tides, the threads show high wear resistance. Harrington et al. (p. 216, published online 4 March; see the Perspective by Messersmith) now find that the threads are protected by a proteinaceous outer cuticle that is rich in the amino acid 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (dopa), which is known to be a strong adhesive. The cuticle is also rich in metal ions, primarily Fe3+. The dopa-metal crosslinks helped to form the tough outer coating. Marine mussel byssal threads have an outer coating in which proteins are linked to metal ions. The extensible byssal threads of marine mussels are shielded from abrasion in wave-swept habitats by an outer cuticle that is largely proteinaceous and approximately fivefold harder than the thread core. Threads from several species exhibit granular cuticles containing a protein that is rich in the catecholic amino acid 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (dopa) as well as inorganic ions, notably Fe3+. Granular cuticles exhibit a remarkable combination of high hardness and high extensibility. We explored byssus cuticle chemistry by means of in situ resonance Raman spectroscopy and demonstrated that the cuticle is a polymeric scaffold stabilized by catecholato-iron chelate complexes having an unusual clustered distribution. Consistent with byssal cuticle chemistry and mechanics, we present a model in which dense cross-linking in the granules provides hardness, whereas the less cross-linked matrix provides extensibility.
The cellulose system in viscin from mistletoe berries
The cellulose system of the viscous fibrous cellulosic polysaccharide (viscan) in the viscin tissue of the European mistletoe, Viscum album L., was analyzed by chemical and physicochemical techniques including sugar analysis, optical and transmission electron microscopy, X-ray and electron diffraction together with solid state CP/MAS 13C-NMR spectroscopy. The results confirmed that in the elongated thin viscin cells, the cellulose microfibrils (having a diameter of around 3 nm) were tightly coiled with their axes perpendicular to the long axis of the cell. Upon stretching these cells became deformed by more than a hundred fold. In such a deformation, the cellulose microfibrils became unwound to be perfectly aligned along the stretching direction. Based on solid-state CP/MAS 13C-NMR spectroscopic analysis of the viscin tissue, it was found that its cellulose consisted of Iα and Iβ polymorphs in the ratio 1:1.
Comparison of IR thermography and thermocouple measurement of heat loss from rabbit pinna.
The temperature of the pinnae of male New Zealand White rabbits was measured by use of infrared thermography. At ambient temperatures of 15, 20, and 25 degrees C, the average pinna temperatures were 23.0, 28.7, and 36.2 degrees C, respectively. From these temperatures, average heat loss from the total pinna surface area was calculated to be 2.8, 3.3, and 4.4 W, respectively. Preoptic temperature changes also affect the vasomotor state of the rabbit. At an ambient temperature of 20 degrees C, cooling the preoptic area of the rabbit by approximately 1 degree C resulted in an average pinna temperature of 26.5 degrees C and a heat loss of 2.4 W. Heating the preoptic area by approximately 1 degree C resulted in an average pinna temperature of 33.5 degrees C and a heat loss of 5.4 W. Finally, pinna temperatures were measured by use of a thermocouple and infrared thermography simultaneously. When the pinnae were vasodilated, the thermocouple measurements were consistently higher than the pinna surface temperatures measured thermographically. When the pinnae were vasoconstricted, the thermocouple measurements were consistently lower than the pinna surface temperatures measured thermographically. The discrepancy between the two methods of measurement is discussed.
American Journal of Physiology-regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
The salvinia paradox: superhydrophobic surfaces with hydrophilic pins for air retention under water.
[*] Prof. W. Barthlott, S. Wiersch, Dr. H. F. Bohn Nees-Institut für Biodiversität der Pflanzen Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Meckenheimer Allee 170, 53115 Bonn (Germany) E-mail: Prof. Th. Schimmel, Dr. M. Barczewski, Dr. S. Walheim, A. Weis, A. Kaltenmaier Institute of Applied Physics and Center for Functional Nanostructures (CFN) University of Karlsruhe Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) 76131 Karlsruhe (Germany) Institute of Nanotechnology and Center for Functional Nanostructures (CFN) Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) 76021 Karlsruhe (Germany) E-mail: Prof. K. Koch Biologie und Nanobiotechnologie Hochschule Rhein-Waal Landwehr 4, 47533 Kleve (Germany)
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