Agriculture
New Gene Fights Potato Blight
Flush-Free Fertilizer
Fast-flying fungal spores
Amphibians
Toads
Salamanders and Newts
Frogs and Toads
Animals
Deep Krill
Navigating by the Light of the Moon
Thieves of a Feather
Behavior
Listen and Learn
The Science Fair Circuit
Fighting fat with fat
Birds
Lovebirds
Ospreys
Rheas
Chemistry and Materials
Popping to Perfection
The newest superheavy in town
Sugary Survival Skill
Computers
Middle school science adventures
Batteries built by Viruses
It's a Small E-mail World After All
Dinosaurs and Fossils
A Living Fossil
Fingerprinting Fossils
Dino-Dining Dinosaurs
E Learning Jamaica
E Learning in Jamaica WIN PRIZES and try our Fun Animated Games
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
Results of GSAT are in schools this week
Earth
A Grim Future for Some Killer Whales
Quick Quake Alerts
Plastic-munching microbes
Environment
Food Web Woes
Indoor ozone stopper
Snow Traps
Finding the Past
Little People Cause Big Surprise
Chicken of the Sea
A Long Trek to Asia
Fish
Mahi-Mahi
Cleaning Up Fish Farms
Trout
Food and Nutrition
Chocolate Rules
Moving Good Fats from Fish to Mice
In Search of the Perfect French Fry
GSAT English Rules
Subject and Verb Agreement
Finding Subjects and Verbs
Pronouns
GSAT Exam Preparation Jamaica
10 Common Mistakes When Preparing for the GSAT Math Test
How are students placed after passing the GSAT exam
Tarrant High overcoming the odds
GSAT Exams Jamaica Scholarships
42,000 students will sit for the GSAT Exam in two weeks
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
GSAT Scholarship
GSAT Mathematics
42,000 students will sit for the GSAT Exam in two weeks
How to Slice a Cake Fairly
GSAT Mathematics Quiz, Teaching Math, teaching anxiety
Human Body
From Stem Cell to Any Cell
A Better Flu Shot
Tapeworms and Drug Delivery
Invertebrates
Tarantula
Worms
Leeches
Mammals
Beagles
Grizzly Bear
Whales
Parents
Children and Media
How children learn
Raise a Lifelong Reader by Reading Aloud
Physics
Black Hole Journey
Project Music
Thinner Air, Less Splatter
Plants
Assembling the Tree of Life
Sweet, Sticky Science
Plants Travel Wind Highways
Reptiles
Crocodilians
Crocodiles
Black Mamba
Space and Astronomy
Phantom Energy and the Big Rip
Zooming In on the Wild Sun
A Dusty Birthplace
Technology and Engineering
Young Scientists Take Flight
Toy Challenge
A Micro-Dose of Your Own Medicine
The Parts of Speech
What is a Preposition?
Problems with Prepositions
Adjectives and Adverbs
Transportation
How to Fly Like a Bat
Charged cars that would charge
Revving Up Green Machines
Weather
Warmest Year on Record
Antarctica warms, which threatens penguins
Watering the Air
Add your Article

Hungry bug seeks hot meal

Superman may have something in common with one kind of seed-eating bug. Both use special powers to zero in on a warm target. In the bug’s case, the target is dinner.

For humans, finding some Oreos or popcorn can be a challenge in a crowded supermarket. Now imagine how hard it must be for a tiny bug on the lookout for pine cone seeds. The insects have to search among many needles. And there aren’t any aisles with signs.

Recently scientists discovered that a bug that dines on pine cone seeds uses a special ability to seek them out. This insect finds its next meal by sensing the food’s temperature. All living things give off heat in the form of infrared light. While this kind of light is invisible to humans, scientists have found that the seed-eating bug is able to detect it.

When it grows cold outside this cone-loving bug shows up in people’s homes. This got bug scientists thinking. Perhaps the seed-eaters were creeping into homes looking for a warm place to catch some zzz’s. And if the bugs could sense the warmth in homes, maybe they could sense warm food, too.

Scientists know that some plants can generate heat. Skunk cabbages, for example, heat themselves and even melt the snow around them. So the bug scientists thought the seed bugs could be searching for cones that give off some heat.

The researchers took their theory, or idea, outdoors for a test. They brought along a special camera that gave them the ability to see warmth. Through this camera, heat showed up in shades of yellow and orange. When the scientists looked at the pine cones through the camera, the bugs’ food lit up. The trees looked as if they were covered in candles. “All we could think of was Christmas,” said Stephen Takács, the leader of the study and a scientist at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada. “We were just stunned.”

The researchers took the temperatures of different kinds of cones and needles during each season. It turned out the cones were always about 15 degrees Celsius warmer than the surrounding needles. That’s the difference between needing a light jacket and knowing it’s time to break out your shorts. The find was proof enough that the cones were warmer than their environment. Still, the team wanted to explore if the bugs were truly detecting the hotter food.

The scientists hunkered down and watched the bugs search for food in the wild and in the lab. Sure enough, the insects had an obvious preference for cones that glowed especially bright from their warmth.

This is the first time scientists have found a seed-eater with a knack for detecting heat given off by its plant meal, Takács says. Scientists have started to wonder if other bugs have similar skills.

“We tend to focus on things humans can see, can observe easily” explains scientist Irene Terry of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Now scientists are learning that other things help insects find food, she says.

On the bugs’ bodies, researchers found sensors that seemed to be used to find the warm cones. The scientists tested this theory by painting over the sensors with silica paint. This kind of paint blocked the bugs’ sensors from detecting the heat. The team found that, once painted, the bugs no longer hunted for the “lit up” cones.

The scientists also peered inside the bugs’ nervous system, which responds to input from the senses. The researchers found a clear pathway from the sensors to the brain. This connection might be used to tell the bugs’ brains that hot food is directly ahead or, maybe, a little to the left.

Takács isn’t sure why the cones are warm. He thinks the cones may be hotter because bigger objects collect heat better than smaller objects. He says the warmth could also be produced from the energy generated during seed development.

While scientists continue to search for these answers we can be sure of at least one thing. These seed-eating bugs have the skills to find their next hot meal.

Hungry bug seeks hot meal
Hungry bug seeks hot meal








Designed and Powered by HBJamaica.com™