Apex


If apex means “top”, the world’s apex predator might just be a tiny spider. Meet Euophrys Omnisuperstes, ( Latin for “standing above everything” ) the Himalayan Jumping Spider,  highest known permanent resident life form on Earth. This quarter inch long, eight eyed, claw footed jumping spider capable of leaping distances 50 times its body length, thrives at elevations of 22,000 feet above sea level. Himalayan Jumping Spiders inhabit a realm so improbable, their only food source is insects carried by the wind.

Meet the Spider that Lives On Top of the World: the Himalayan Jumping Spider

For perspective, Mt. Everest south base camp in Nepal sits at 17,598 feet. At this elevation oxygen levels are 50% that of sea level. Worlds above the tree line, far beyond the domain of Snow Leopards, high above clusters of Nepalese Snub Nose Monkeys https://www.newscientist.com/article/2101954-secrets-of-how-primates-can-live-at-extreme-altitude-revealed/ whose only sustenance is lichen or rare thermal pool prisoners of high altitude hot springs, the Bailey’s snake https://reptiles.fandom.com/wiki/Thermophis_baileyi – tiny eight eyed jumping spiders wait for lunch to blow in on the wind. Why spider, why?

Make no mistake, spiders rule. Sure cockroaches survive underwater for half an hour, monarch butterflies migrate thousands of miles to a miniscule patch of Mexican forest, but it’s the spider who stands above everything.

Hey Zebra, Why Those Stripes?


By definition science strives to provide answers arrived at by systematic analysis of nature and behaviour of the material and physical universe. Since the dawn of biological science, mystery of Zebra stripes have confounded science. Enter Tim Caro of University of California at Davis.

Tim Caro visited Hill Livery in England, a stable that keeps zebra alongside horses. Keen observation of zebra, horses and horses cloaked in zebra stripes revealed a simple explanation of why zebras are stripped – stripes confound hoards of biting flies. Apparently optics matter in the horsefly world. Swarms of horseflies hover without discrimination above horse and zebra, but stripes screw with horsefly minds, they can’t land on a striped hide.

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/02/why-do-zebras-have-stripes-flies/583114/

Insect Digesting Proof of Evolution


Regardless of determination to dismiss, avoid or walk away from slippery slopes leading to fundamentalist Christian jibber-jabber, every so often it pays to have an arsenal of politely dispatched counterpoints up your sleeve.Scientific proof of insect digesting genomes lingering in the soup of our current gene pool serves the purpose nicely.

Ancient mammal ancestors of all animal species, including humans, were insect eaters. 66 million years ago small insect digesting mammals darted between dinosaur toes. Able to escape asteroid induced dinosaur apocalypse by burrowing underground, formerly inconsequential bug eaters gave rise to life as we know it. Fickle as evolution may be, it saw no reason to deny humans chitinases markers, genetic enzymes capable of breaking down chitin, the hard outer shells of ingested insects.

Research published by Christopher Emerling of UC Berkeley in the journal Science Advances, based analysis of 107 different animal species genomes to conclude –

“One of the coolest things is, if you look at humans, at Fido your dog, Whiskers your cat, your horse, your cow; pick any animal, generally speaking, they have remnants in their genomes of a time when mammals were small, probably insectivorous and running around when dinosaurs were still roaming Earth,” said postdoctoral fellow Christopher Emerling. “It is a signature in your genome that says, once upon a time you were not the dominant group of organisms on Earth. By looking at our genomes, we are looking at this ancestral past and a lifestyle that we don’t even live with anymore.”

Evolution is why millions of people around the world digest insects. God unleashed a plague of locusts to punish humanity, evolution shrugged and sat down at the dinner table.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-05-inherited-bug-eating-ancestors.html#jCp

Image result for gene inherited from bug eating ancestors

A spectral tarsier (Tarsius tarsier) feeding on a grasshopper in Tangkoko National Park, Northern Sulawesi, Indonesia. Tarsiers have five chitinase genes to digest the high amount of chitin in their insectivorous diet, which likely …more

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-05-inherited-bug-eating-ancestors.html#jCp

Tardigrade


Did life on Earth emerge spontaneously from primordial pools, or fall from the cosmos with meteoric fanfare? Not sure? Ponder the Tardigrade.

Tardigrade or “water bear” are the only known life form capable of surviving the airless vacuum of space and lethal radiation levels. Remarkable yes, mind blowing when considered with additional facts – they can survive six times the pressure of our deepest ocean, frozen to absolute zero (-273 C) or boiled above 150 C. Dehydrate a Tardigrade for years then add water, voila – business as usual. Eventually they do succumb to old age, but don’t hold your breath, life expectancy is 200 years.

Discovered by Italian Lazarro Sapallanzani in 1773, water bears are thought to have inhabited Earth for 530 million years. Measuring 0.5 mm – 1.2 mm in length, they can be found anywhere on Earth.

The Tardigrade begs evolution to explain why. Evolution adapts species for life on our planet, why would a species need to withstand ravages of time and space?

Magnified 500x: The green fronds seen here are tiny moss leaves

http://www.dogonews.com/2014/4/5/the-virtually-indestructible-water-bear

Vanity


This is a re-post of one of my earliest efforts – coincidentally, one of my favorite posts.

notestoponder

It occurred to me that vanity should perhaps be the test by which we gauge human evolution. Rather than constructing a timeline of civilization based on flints, tools, and the written word – ponder the evolution of vanity. At what point did early man begin to care about his appearance? Sticking a pin in that moment will solve the riddle of when our known history began.

We became truly “human” when we caught sight of our reflection, and frowned. That frown was the stepping stone to separate mankind from all the other species in our world. Animals groom, humans improve, embellish, and alter. Some animals developed outlandish characteristics to show off during mating season, they never looked in a mirror to see whether they looked fat or silly. The evolutionary leap for mankind was that critical eye, and with it an awareness of trend and opinion. Characteristics that plague us to this day.

Ancient Roman practices of…

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Vanity


It occurred to me that vanity should perhaps be the test by which we gauge human evolution. Rather than constructing a timeline of civilization based on flints, tools, and the written word – ponder the evolution of vanity. At what point did early man begin to care about his appearance? Sticking a pin in that moment will solve the riddle of when our known history began.

We became truly “human” when we caught sight of our reflection, and frowned. That frown was the stepping stone to separate mankind from all the other species in our world. Animals groom, humans improve, embellish, and alter. Some animals developed outlandish characteristics to show off during mating season, they never looked in a mirror to see whether they looked fat or silly. The evolutionary leap for mankind was that critical eye, and with it an awareness of trend and opinion. Characteristics that plague us to this day.

Ancient Roman practices of lightening hair with pigeon poop, applying bear grease to stop baldness, wearing a paste of ground herbs and worms to cover gray hair, rinsing your mouth with imported urine from Portugal – Botox injections, Retin A Lap Bands, white strips…..

The moment “keeping up appearances  took hold, we were human. Find the first mirror and you’ll find the cradle of civilization.

http://blogs.static.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/20058.html