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Thoughts and Musings

New Publications Page!

I’ve been asked a few times for copies of one of my publications, so I thought I’d make them available to everyone. Just click on the publications tab above and get what you want. Enjoy!

 

 

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Thoughts and Musings

Make a fashion statement: Exuviae as head gear

In news of the awesome/weird of the day: a Japanese entertainer is using cicada exuviae as a hat.

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For those not in the know, exuviae are the cast exoskeletons of insects, left behind after molting. These look like the left over exoskeletons of the final nymphal stage before the cicada molts into an adult. You can tell these are cast skins because of the break in the dorsal surface of the exuvia. That’s where the adult emerged (visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cicada_molting_animated-2.gif). I think I kinda love it!

 

–Adrienne

Source

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Thoughts and Musings

Lice, Cockroaches more Awesome than Congress, According to Americans

So recently a national poll on Congress found that the assembly as a whole as a mere 9% favorability rating (while 85% of the responders view Congress negatively).

Congress!

Of course, this crazy low approval rating has prompted pollsters with a sense of humor to compare this approval with a variety of universally hated things. Lice, cockroaches, colonoscopies and Nickleback all fared better in the eyes of every day Americans than the current sitting Congress. Yay!

Survey Finds Americans View Congress Less Favorably than Cockroaches.

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Thoughts and Musings

Autopsy Shows Roach-Eating Contest Winner Asphyxiated on Bug Parts

 

So two months ago the internet came alive with a story about a Florida man who died shortly after winning a roach-eating contest (prize: an awesome Ivory Ball python).

The autopsy results have finally been released, and it appears that the man died of asphyxia due to aspiration of insect parts. How crazy forensic entomology is that?

 

Autopsy Shows Roach-Eating Contest Winner Asphyxiated on Bug Parts.

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Thoughts and Musings

Art by … maggots? – Brenham Banner-Press : News

Hey, the Blinn forensics club made the Brenham Banner-Press!

Studies show students love maggots dipped in paint!

Yesterday was club awareness day for the Blinn campus, and the forensics club decided to do maggot art as an activity. We got a great response, and a photo in the paper! Yay!

Art by … maggots? – Brenham Banner-Press : News.

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Thoughts and Musings

Guest Post: Infographic (Thanks guys!)

Forensic entomology can be a key factor in crime scenes. Insects can determine many things about a dead body, ranging from the time of death and if drugs or toxins were involved. Forensic entomology combined with DNA profiling, an autopsy, and more, can reveal a great deal of evidence. Without modern day technology, very little evidence would be gathered at crime scenes. Take a step into the world of crime scene science.

 

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Thoughts and Musings

Australia uses new imported beetles to control poop

 

Beetles love their poop!

Four decades ago the Australian government attempted to contain a growing, ahem, cow patty problem: the build up of cow dung in fields due to an over abundance of cows and a lack of any natural way to dispose of their waste.

They did what any group of people with a little ecological knowledge would do…they imported a species of dung beetle to take care of the problem. This has worked very, very well for all concerned. However, the beetles imported all those years ago have not saturated the environment as hoped, and are not as active year-round as ranchers would like. In an effort to amp up the dug removal process, two new species of European dung beetles will be introduced to fill in the ecological gaps. What a nice example of using ecological principles to solve a real world problem!

We’ve dung it again! Our exotic solution to the dung problem in Australia continues.

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Thoughts and Musings

Beetle flight: Flapping protective wings increase lift

 

A quick note on some interesting entomological science today: Scientists have found that the hardened fore wings of beetles (known as elytra) actully assist somewhat during beetle flight.

It has long been known that the elytra give the beetles protection when folded over the membranous hind wings, but recent studies on dung beetles show that the elytra also increase lift in these large species. An interesting factoid for your Tuesday!

Source:Beetle flight: Flapping protective wings increase lift.

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Thoughts and Musings

New method for blow fly larvae identification

Larvae are hard to identify
What a pain!

 

 

 

 

 

 

You know what’s hard? Identifying maggots. When forensic entomologists work a case, the most common insect found is the blow fly, and the most common stage is the larvae. See those maggots above? Yep, the almost all look exactly like that. Identification of  a maggot takes close inspection of mouth hooks and tiny hairs, and they all look almost exactly the same. What a pain in the…well, you know.

Anyhow, the holy grail of Calliphoridae taxonomy is a simple and effective method of larval identification. The newest attempt at larval identification was just published in May’s edition of Paristology Research:

Cuticular muscle attachment sites as a tool for species determination in blowfly larvae

The paper describes a method to stain and visualize the muscle attachment sites in maggot bodies, and use the pattern of these sites to identify closely related species of fly. It’s an interesting prospect. The method appears to be effective at differentiating species that are often mistaken for one another, which is the true test of a new method.

I haven’t had the chance to try out this method yet, and, like other methods used to clear and visualize particular parts of a maggot body, it sounds pretty labor intense. However, the possibility that it may help to identify closely related species under the microscope is exciting.

 

–Dr. B

 

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Science

Piophila megastigmata (Diptera: Piophilidae): First records on human corpses

Species in the genus Piophilia  are commonly known as  cheese flies or the cheese skippers since they are often attracted to cheese and preserved meats. Piophila casei, in fact, is necessary for the production of traditional (but illegally-produced) casu marzu cheese in Italy and Croatia.  As the larvae digest the cheese, the residue they leave ferments the food and leaves behind a characteristic taste associated with properly produed casu marzu.

Piophila casei is also assoicated with the later stages of decay in humans, since as humans decompose their fat renders and smells an awful lot like cheese.

Recently, researchers in Portugal found a relative of P. casei, P. megastigmata, on human remains for the first time. Publications of this type are very important, especially for an up-and-coming science like forensic entomology. Now that we know P. megastigmata feeds on human remains, we can start researching the insect and use it to tell us a little bit about a body.

Piophila megastigmata (Diptera: Piophilidae): First records on human corpses 10.1016/j.forsciint.2011.07.009 : Forensic Science International | ScienceDirect.com.