Insect Adventure, Part Three

Insect Adventure, Part Three


Welcome to the insect division at The Field Museum. We’re here today to look at some of the things that we’ve collected up in Hanover. When we were up and we were up there with the middle school and Emily was up there beating trees and all that kind of good stuff. Okay, so this is one of the carrion trap samples that we found in Hanover, and this is the one we took out of the middle of the prairie when the kids from the middle school were there. So they helped pick up this trap. The first thing I find is a histerid, it’s a Hister beetle, and they eat a lot of dead animals. This one’s a little bit bigger. This is a Necrophila americana. These just come to a big carcass, like a deer, and lay their eggs on it, and then the larvae eat the deer carcass. And this is a Onthophagus hecate. It’s a type of dung beetle. They’re out in the prairie eating things like deer poop. So they take the deer poop and they take a ball of the deer poop and they roll it around and then they lay their eggs in it and they bury it in the ground and then the larvae eat the deer poop. This is a thomisid, or a crab spider, and these are little spiders that can move forwards, backwards, and sideways. Crab spiders are the only spiders that can move in all four directions like that. How do other spiders move? Either forwards or backwards.
– Oh. This is a cricket, like a house cricket- the ones you find in pet stores. This is a fly, this is called a sarcophagid, which is a flesh fly. It’s one of the big flies that we have around here. What are all the wormy things? Are all those larvae and maggots and stuff? Yeah.
– These? Like this? These are the millipedes. Oh, these?
– Well no, the white ones, yeah. The white ones like this?
– Yeah. Yeah that is fly larvae, so that’s a maggot, and fly larvae are called maggots. And we can’t identify fly larvae, so I don’t pull them out. This is called a broad-headed bug, and these suck juices out of plants. This is a carabid, or ground beetle, and there’s a whole bunch of different ground beetles living out in the prairie. This is a daddy longleg, or Opiliones. Daddy longlegs aren’t actually spiders. You can tell the difference because there is no waist between the abdomen and the thorax. It’s all one part. Spiders have a waist between the abdomen and thorax.
– Yeah. So daddy longlegs don’t, and also they have no venom and no fangs. So they’re not gonna bite you, they’re not spiders.
– They’re not spiders, they’re not gonna bite you. What about that giant grasshopper?
– Oh yeah, I missed him. Where’s he at? He’s over here some place.
– He’s down in the… Oh down here, okay, this is a big old grasshopper. This is an adult because it has fully developed wings, and that’s what happens when grasshoppers and crickets and things reach adulthood. The wings go from just being little wing buds to being full wings. And there are flying wings under there so these can fly. And this is called a differential grasshopper. It’s just one of the really big grasshoppers found around here. So that’s most of what’s in this dish. There’s gonna be lots of other things in the rest of the sample. Then people want to know what we do with them after we take them out of the sample. So I’m just gonna move this over to the side. And then we pin them. These are quite a bit longer than pins that are used for sewing. They’re also much thinner. So that allows you to put it through the body of the insect and then have room on the underneath to put the collecting labels. To pin it, you just take the pin, stick it through the thorax, you stick the pin in so there’s about a quarter inch or a little more left. Then I set them on these trays so that they dry and the abdomens don’t fall down, and the legs stay in place, so that when it’s time to put the labels on, you can put the labels on and they don’t get caught up in the legs, and the abdomen doesn’t break off when you put it into the collection.
– Yeah. And then in two weeks it’ll be completely dry and hard, and then you can put it into the collection. So you pose the legs and everything so they kind of dry in place?
-Mhmm. When you pin a beetle, the wing cover is called an “elytra,” and you put the pin through the elytra, just to the right of center and just below where the thorax attaches to the abdomen. Put it on the drying board, and you’re done.
– Nice! Let me find something little.
– There’s some tiny, tiny spiders in there. Spiders don’t get pinned.
– Awww. Spiders, if you pin them, they just dry out and shrivel up or the abdomens rot and fall off.
– Ew. So, here’s a little ant.
– Does that not happen with insects because they have… Insects have a thicker exoskeleton. Spiders have a thin exoskeleton, so they just don’t pin well.
– Yeah. Okay, so little tiny things obviously, we aren’t going to be able to put a pin through that.
– Oh my gosh, yeah. So what we do with these, these are just little points that we punch out of cardstock, and we bend the tip over a little bit. And then we use a very sophisticated glue. Ta-da! Clear nail polish. I was gonna say, I think I have some of that at my house. Wow, that’s so tiny.
– Okay. And the point goes between the second and third leg on the right side of the insect when the insect is facing away from you. I can’t even— I would have no idea how to look at that. So I’ve got the second and third leg spread apart. Put a little dab of nail polish on the end of the point, stick it on there. Wow!
– Make sure the insect is as straight across as you can get it, and then just put him on the board. That’s how little tiny insects are prepared to go into the collection. These trays are all spiders that have been collected up in the prairie in Hanover. We’ve collected 137 different species of spiders so far.
– Oh wow. Which is a whole lot of spiders for a small prairie of 65 acres or so. At this point, between spiders and insects, we have 837 species. And doing a full summer worth of collecting next year, we could come up with as many as 12 or 15 hundred species.
– Oh my gosh. And these were all of the insects that were like in the…
– In the carrion traps, or the sweep netting, or the beating of trees. So these are insects that were collected in all the different ways we’ve collected up there.
– Wow. So, what we have found that’s really interesting and important, we’ve found some habitat indicator species. So in this drawer…
– *Gasps* There’s the— You recognize these guys.
– Yeah! These are the Phanaeus vindex carrion beetle that is an indicator of habitat species. And what’s really cool, we’ve found not only females, that don’t have the horn, we found some alpha males with the big long horn, and some beta males with the little short horn. So the alpha males are the ones that are gonna get to mate, to carry on their species.
– Nice! They’re so beautiful, too. And there are others in here, like these are Nicrophorus marginatus, and those are one of the burying beetles. I think we talked about those, they find dead animals, shave the fur off, dig underneath them, bury them, and lay their eggs in them.
– Yeah. And those beetles actually provide parental care.
– Oh yeah! They hang around, and they protect the eggs from predators, and they clean the eggs because they’re in a dead animal.
– Yeah. So they keep the fungus and bacteria and things off of the eggs, and then they do the same thing for the larvae. So it’s one of the few beetles that actually does provide parental care for their babies. You wouldn’t— I wouldn’t expect a lot of insects to have that kind of like, maternal instinct. There aren’t a lot of insects that do, there are quite a few spiders that do.
– Really? There are— like the nursery web spiders and the wolf spiders.
– Yeah. The wolf spiders, when the eggs hatch, they run around on the baby— on the female, on the mother. And the mother protects them, and they stay on the mother until they shed their skin once, and then they disperse and go all over the place. Wow, that’s pretty cool. It makes them sound cuddly. Yeah, kinda. And you know, like most things around here, almost everything around here, they aren’t gonna hurt you.
– Yeah. There are a few things: if you mess with a wasp, it’s gonna sting you.
– Yeah. But if you leave it alone, it’s gonna leave you alone. They’re mostly just curious when they’re like buzzing around. When they’re buzzing around, they’re just curious about what you’re doing there, they’re trying to figure you out. They’re more scared of you than you are of them. They know that they can’t really hurt you. They know that you’re way too big for them to do anything with. They aren’t going to be able to reproduce on you, they aren’t going to be able to eat you, they aren’t going to be able to do anything with you. So they’re just curious as to what you’re doing out there.
– Yeah. There were a lot of questions about the wasp of death.
– Yeah! Here’s the wasp of death. This is one of the cricket hunters. And what they do is fly around and hunt for crickets, and sting them, and paralyze them, and then lay their eggs on them. They bury them in a burrow, and then over the next six to eight weeks the larvae of the wasp eats the paralyzed cricket. And the cricket is still alive. So nature isn’t always nice, and fine, and gentle, and cool. They’re really kinda gross sometimes. And there’s lots and lots of wasps that do that to all kinds of different insects and spiders. These are Platydracus maculosus, and though they aren’t prairie indicators, they’re only found really in good habitats.
– Oh, good. So a lot of these things are habitat indicators, and they all indicate that it is a good habitat.
– Good! So they’re doing everything right up there in Hanover. Is there anything that you would have expected to find that you didn’t find this time? Um, there’s always lots of stuff. There’s so many different things living there. Like I said, if we continue going we could find twice as many as we’ve found so far.
– Yeah. And you’re always catching new things. Every time you go there’s new things. And the way you determine when it’s time to stop collecting is a species curve.
– Oh. You start out from zero, and as you’re collecting, the curve goes up, up, up, up, but then it levels out. And when it starts to level out, and you’re only getting a few new things, then it’s time to quit. Good! So…
– So that’s how we determine when it’s time to quit, we don’t just keep collecting forever. Does collecting this amount of insects— is that going to have any kind of negative impact on the populations? No, you really can’t hurt insect populations by collecting. They have so many babies. What controls insect and spider populations is food availability. If there’s plenty of food, you’re going to have plenty of insects and plenty of spiders.
– Right. Are you afraid of accidentally, like, catching the last of a certain species, and then the species goes extinct? The chances of catching the last of a species is basically zero. If you’re down to the last of a species, you’re never gonna find it. Also, if you have a species that is endangered, you’re unlikely to find them. Up in that area, there’s only one insect species that could even be considered endangered, and that’s the Hine’s emerald dragonfly, and I’ve never seen one up there, in all the time I’ve been collecting up there and other places in that area, I’ve never seen a Hine’s emerald. And one of the rules is if you collect an endangered species, you’re done.
– Really? You can’t collect anything more on that site. So if we were to collect, say, a Nicrophorus americanus, which is an endangered carrion beetle, we’d stop immediately. That’s the last time we’d collect at that site.
– Really. Oh, that’s good to know. So we’re never going to collect a bunch of something that’s endangered. Well that’s cool! I’m happy to see them all pinned and everything. Yeah, they’re all pinned up, they’re all identified, we know what they all are. Yay!
-So, it’s fun!
– Yeah! It’s really fun to go out there and it’s fun to be out in the field.
– Yeah. There’s nothing better than being out in the field, and getting your hands dirty, and playing in the carrion traps, and digging in the soil. There’s nothing better than that. And that’s something that I really want to get across to kids. Get out there. Have fun with it. Collect insects. You can’t hurt the populations if you collect a few insects. Have fun. Get into it. That’s what it’s all about. That’s good. Well, thank you so much, I had so much fun going out and collecting, and then to see everything laid out here and pinned and identified is really gratifying.

20 MILLION Year-Old Spider and the Science of Spider Silk

20 MILLION Year-Old Spider and the Science of Spider Silk


[MUSIC] Think about this: Wherever you’re sitting
right now, chances are there’s a spider nearby. Which means there’s also a spider web. And you should be excited about that, because
spider silk is awesome. Spiders manufacture something stronger, stretchier,
or stickier than just about anything humans have engineered. A thread of spider silk is nearly invisible,
which is why you’ve probably walked through it with your face. Yet when it comes to strength, some spider
silk fibers rival steel and Kevlar. Imagine this: A silk cord about the diameter
of a garden hose could hold up a passenger jet. So how does such a tiny animal weave such
an amazing material using nothing but its rear end? I wanted to find out, so I went to the American
Museum of Natural History to meet Dr. Cheryl Hayashi, who’s maybe the world’s #1 expert
in the science of spider silk. Everybody knows that spiders make silk, but
I don’t think most people realize just how many kinds of silk spiders make. There’s over 46,000 described species of
spiders – and most spiders make four, five, six, seven, eight kinds of silk. So if you do the math, it’s huge! So this is Nephila clavipes, the golden orb-weaver,
and she can make seven different types of silk. Seven different kinds of spider silk? In that tiny little body? Yeah! Well, some people don’t think it’s a tiny
little body… It’s not the smallest spider I’ve ever seen! When you look at the golden orb weaver’s
trademark web, you’re actually looking at several different types of silk. There’s the dragline silk: The spider drags
it behind like a climber’s safety rope. It also makes up the web’s outer frame. There’s one silk to guide the web’s construction. The spiral that traps prey, is actually a
mix of two more silks: A stretchy silk covered in a sticky glue-like silk on top. There’s a cement-like silk to attach the
web to whatever it’s hanging on. There’s a silk for wrapping up prey. They even wrap their eggs in silk. Seven different silks, all made by one spider. So what exactly is this stuff? Spider silk is made of proteins, and the dominant
proteins inside a silk fiber are these specialized category of proteins called spidroins, which
stands for spider fibroins, that are unique to spiders. Inside the body, all of the silk glands have
liquid protein in them. So it’s liquid protein, and when I dissect
a spider and I take out a silk gland, and I break the gland open, it has the consistency
of honey! It’s a viscous, gooey substance that’s
in there. And it’s highly-concentrated silk protein. It kind of makes you wonder what an anatomically
correct Spider-Man would look like. The raw ingredients for every protein chain
are twenty amino acids, and the recipes for these chains are coded in genes. The order of amino acids in these chains determine
what a protein looks like, and what it will do. And spider silk proteins are built in a very
special way. Imagine a silk molecule like a long train,
made up of different boxcars. Inside each type of boxcar is a string of
amino acids. In any one type of silk, we see the same boxcars
over and over all the way along the train. This unique pattern is what makes each silk
so specialized. Spiders have cooked up some equally specialized
ways to use these silks. Like the trapdoor spider, which weaves a camouflaged
shelter from silk. The ogre spider, that it casts out a silk
net like a fisherman. Or the redback spider, who weaves a trap in
the form of sticky spring-loaded snares. Other spiders shoot venom-laced deadly silly
string silk. Small spiders can even ride the winds on silk
sails, a trick called “ballooning” that can carry them kilometers into the sky. To find the origins of spider silk, we have
to go a long way back. This is fossil amber, it’s from a Burmese
deposit, and there’s a spider in here, and this is 100 million years old. Do you want to touch a 100-million-year-old
spider? I need to be very careful. I’m holding a piece of the world from 100
million years ago, and there’s a spider in there that was already making silk like
spiders do today? Yes. 100 million years old! I can keep this, right? It’ll be our secret. Here’s another fossil spider, this one’s
not quite as old: only 20 million years old. Only 20-million-years-old? Practically yesterday! This one is just beautiful. I mean, you can see the spider inside. It’s posing like a spider! It knew that we would find it one day, and
it was like, “I’m gonna give them a really good pose. I’m going to do my best spidering.” Thank you, I really appreciate it! But Dr. Hayashi doesn’t just study how spiders
evolved and how they make silk. She also studies its mechanical properties. If you’re picturing her pulling on spider
silk with tiny tweezers, you’re not far off. This is one strand of dragline silk, that
what’s on this card. She unweaves these single silk strands by
hand, and mounts them into a special machine to test how much pulling it can take before
it breaks. And you can see there’s a fiber connecting
that. So the only thing connecting this part of
the machine: this clamp to this clamp, is the silk fiber. Can we pull on it? We can pull on it! We’re going to break this spider silk so
good. [SUSPENSEFUL MUSIC] Weight for weight, almost nothing we humans
have invented is as strong, as stretchy, or absorbs energy as well as some spider silks. So naturally, we’re trying to figure out
how to manufacture and weave this stuff for ourselves. The approach is you take the spider silk gene,
and you move that silk gene into another organism such as bacteria, a plant, a silk worm, or
even goats. Goats… like? Where is it coming out of the goats? So in the goat, it actually comes out, it’s
expressed in the mammary gland. So it comes out with the milk. What happens if you drink that milk? Do you get special powers? Um, I haven’t tried that myself. I’m going to market spider silk milk goat
cheese. You heard it first! Spider goat silk is still experimental, but
it shows us something really amazing about the power of evolution. With all our tools, and all of our knowledge
we haven’t invented a material as awesome as spider silk. We’re still no match for millions of years
worth of nature’s experiments. Well, I made a new friend. I made two new friends. [SPIDER NOISES] She’s like, waving to the camera. You know, that’s what they say about spiders,
you put a camera on them. I know! Hamming it up! Hamming it up. She’s saying “Hi Mom!”

Beetles, Mites, Cockroaches Oh My! [Insect Collection Tour]

Beetles, Mites, Cockroaches Oh My! [Insect Collection Tour]


We’re back with Crystal down here in the pinned Insect collection at The Field Museum! So the Insect Collection is the largest collection in the Field Museum It is, there is about twelve millions insects specimens and there is about four millions specimens right here in this room So the other…eight million are..? – They are downstairs in alcohol So let’s go see some of the insects Sure! Our whole collections is stored in cabinets like these. And each of the cabinets has space for… several drawers. So if we open this up. There are about fifteen drawers per cabinet, Wow! And then all of our specimens are stored in tiny… Boxes that we called trays. These trays are especially built just for our collections They’re called Field Museum trays. All of these cabinets here have… the same family of beetle. All of these drawers have the same Genus and the all of the same species is kept together, that way…when the scientist comes in they can just…say “I’m looking for this species and this genus and this family.” And…Bam! there you go! It’s like Dewey Decimals systems for… Exactly! for insects.
– Exactly! You’re moving… several tons of cabinets. -…with the strength of an army! What’s really cool about our rove beetle collections is that it’s one of the best in the world. We had two experts on… rove beetles here, Al Newton and Margaret Thayer. We also have about seven thousand type specimens. We’ve been working on… Databasing those types and imaging them, so you can go online, anybody can go online and take a look at our Rove Beetle types. When you say “seven thousands types” that’s not just… Random specimens, those are “The Specimens” Yes! that going to collections, after a new species is named. Exactly! We have a lot more specimens than seven thousand. But we have seven thousand of… the specimens that the person who originally described it designated as the name barer. [Emily] That’s wild!
– It bearsr the name of the new species. These blank spaces with the number, indicate where we sent specimens off to other researchers to study all around the world! We’re hoping that… by…databasing all of our types by photographing them, that’ll reduced the need for people to come and see them in person. I want to point out this collections because this is one of our… historically most important collections, it’s the Frank Psota Collection. The collector that started this, he was the kind of this “Pokemon” mindset like the…”Gotta catch ’em all” kinda thing. So what he would do… was whenever he was missing a species from his collections, he would do a little drawing, or a little painting and he would put it the unit tray next to the specimens that were closely related or where the species should go -So he would like… would like to take the drawing and be like… “I’m coming for you guy.”
[laugh] Ha you’re next!
– I hope so So it’s pretty interesting that…even though He didn’t know… what would happen to his collections eventually the fact that we keep all of it, with it, I think it…
– Right! enhanced like it uniqueness Right! Exactly!
[Emily] and It kind of that… [Emily] that collecting mentality…
– Nobody else in the world has a collection like this. God! and…these are and this are some Amazing! Amazing beetles!
– Yeah! check out this purple [Emily] It’s a nice purple
– This is…this is purple [Emily] Have you ever seen purple…
– This is purple in it’s purist form These are all Flower Chafers They have named of old countries That don’t exist anymore
[Emily] Oh yeah This is big problem with our digitization where you have interpret that and try to figure out, well, “What was this?” Country called [Emily] Back in nineteen forty twoo…yea…
– Exactly! Exactly! What special about this space, you can…disappear This is the greatest place to play hide-and-seek by the way Cause this literally like… there’s a…I can..I can… My shoulders don’t fit. This is the slide collection. These are mites. And there you have it There’s some mites on there. Ohh..That’s why they on a…m… microscope slide.
– Exactly! Cause they’re hard to see. Ya. And so all of these economically important some of them infest live stock, some of them infest your pets, some of them transmit dangerous diseases. Yikes! Maybe not so much in the US, but other places in the world. So how many of these boxes you have? Tens of thousands. That’s a lot. That is a lot. a lot of mites. It is a lot of mites. But, It’s really important collections and we have two or three researchers a year come here to work on my collections. Do you want to see some cockroaches?
[Emily] Yes! Wow!! [chuckle] Those are huge! These are giant caves roaches. They look like they have little shuffle on their head. These are so much cooler than your German Cockroach that live in your basement. I don’t have cockroaches is my basement. How do you know? They’re very sneaky.
[Emily] No. What’s really cool is we’re actually databasing them so we’re putting a barcode on all the specimens, so that..we can and put all of the information online, and so in this all over the world, can access that information. That’s so useful. – Yeah.
[Emily] That can help inform how people receives loans and request loans. Exactly! Crystal, this collections is so… incredibly massive, It’s the largest collections in the museum and you mentions there’a a huge percentage that has yet to be identified But do you think they’re all ever be a point where you have identify every thing, so you, what all the specimens are and there’s no more questions to ask? Not in my lifetime, Not in…several lifetimes, I really don’t think so. I mean this is… This is just a treasure trove of stuff. Fifty years ago we didn’t know that we were going to extracting DNA out of this specimens. Yeah. So who knows what were going to be doing with these specimens fifty years into the future This is a cabinet of specimens that the leading experts on beetles have looked at and still they don’t know what they are. If you interested in insects, seems like there’s is is almost…the…the… the wild west. Yes! there was an infinite amount of work to do. Anybody with a backyard and some pins… and… you know…a cigar box can start an insect collections. There’s a new species that been described right here from the Museum campus. Really?! Ya There’s a brand new species…
– Right outside…right outside. [Emily] Wow!
– Nobody knew about It’s a fly. Jeez! maybe that’s a different story – That’s a different story.
[Emily] That’s another brainscoop. Yes. ha ha Thanks for having me. That was great!
– Yea…I don’t… [thebrainscoop jingle] …It still has brain on it.

Insects & Bugs : How Do Insects Eliminate Waste?

Insects & Bugs : How Do Insects Eliminate Waste?


Insects bite — we know that. I’m sure you’ve
been bitten by them many times. But you might be wondering: Does anything come out the other
end? Hi, I’m Janice Creneti, and this is: How do insects eliminate waste? Well, first
of all, it’s important to understand what waste is. Waste can occur in a lot of different
forms in the body. Basically, it’s anything that the body can’t use anymore after it’s
processed whatever it’s taken in for food and energy. In a lot of animals, there’s a
need to conserve water and insects that dwell on land would be an example of that. They
don’t always have access to the water they need, so they don’t want to lose a lot of
water when they’re eliminating waste. Unlike humans, whose urine is primarily water. Insects,
instead, have an organ that’s called malpighian tubules that’s kind of like our kidneys. They
use these malpighian tubules to create something called uric acid. Uric acid is the same thing
that’s excreted by birds and also by reptiles, again, in an attempt to save water. Now, insects
that live in water, they’re a little bit different. Obviously, water is plentiful, and so they
excrete something that’s more similar to our urine. It’s primarily ammonia. And again,
unlike in humans where there’s a separate tube for liquid urine and then solid waste
is passed out of the end of the gut, in insects, it’s all mixed together. The uric acid and
any food particles — pollen grains — that may be a result of what they’ve been eating
gets mixed together and is passed out the end of the gut. So now you know. Insects do
eliminate waste. I’m Janice Creneti.

Exploding Termites in Little China | Monster Science #15

Exploding Termites in Little China | Monster Science #15


(static) (screaming) – I don’t think he’s gonna stop! (screaming) (static) – Hello there. – My name is Dr. Anton Jessup, curator of Monster Studies here at the University. I’ve resumed my lectures in the seclusion of the university basement, but alas, my convalescence continues. I’m currently benefiting from some traditional Chinese medicine, as well as more tainted university water. Ahh, delicious. And speaking of, I’m also enjoying more than a little Chinese takeout, as I consider some big trouble in the world of monstrous anatomy. Venture into the domain of Lo Pan and you’ll encounter a
netherworld of the darkest magic. Here, the ultimate evil spirit plots his reconquest of
the physical universe, and he has more than a few
minions at his command. It’s a place where Beholders keep vigil… (interrupting static) – …genetically modified… – …keep vigil over underworld tunnels, bestial Yeren haunt the shadows, and many unnatural people roam free. That last category would
certainly seem to include the sorcerers who call
themselves the Three Storms. One commands lightning, another dances on the wind, and then there’s Thunder. Thunder’s skillset might
seem rather mundane in comparison to his fellow magic users, at least at first. When not massacring gang members in the streets of Chinatown, he mainly gives guided tours of the Wing Kong
import/export trading company, interrogates interlopers,
and attends to his master. But Thunder possesses
one more notable ability. When the going gets tough, he inflates his body and explodes in a burst of green goo and chunks. At first this might seem nonsensical, but it all crystallizes when
you look to the natural world. It’s all a matter of autothysis, the process by which a
natural world organism destroys itself via the internal rupturing of a gland or organ that
in turn ruptures the skin. It’s a purely muscular exercise caused by deliberate contractions
around the engorged tissue. (slurping) While various unnatural people
exhibit this peculiar ability with varying levels of button-popping and gut-rupturing intensity, it’s mostly the domain
of termites and ants, where a single act of
explosive suicidal altruism by a sterile worker can
help turn back an invasion. First consider the carpenter ant, Camponotus saundersi,
of Malaysia and Brunei, whose bodies are riddled with poison sacs. When attacked, they constrict and rupture, fatally forcing sticky
poison out of their mouth, anus, and through the exoskeleton. Autothysis evolved independently in a number of termite species. Some simply defecate on their enemies, but others evolved to
shower them with filth, by squeezing their muscles
until the excrement squirts out through the abdominal wall. Other termites upgraded this
process with a little poison. The termite Globitermes sulphureus exudes a yellow substance
that hardens rapidly to trap enemy ants and termites, and it also contains a pheromone to call in more soldiers. However the termite Neocapritermes taracua is the ultimate body-buster. This species’ workers grow abdominal sacs of toxic blue crystals
throughout their lives, but these explosive
backpacks are most pronounced in elderly workers. Their mandibles are dull and useless, but their swollen poison pouches provide them one last purpose in the defense of the colony. When enemy invaders
bite into their bodies, the blue crystals combine
with salivary secretions to produce a deadly chemical weapon. These tactics make for a
particularly effective defense within the confines of a termite colony. (interrupting static) – To experience… – Or within the sprawling
tunnels of Lo Pan’s stronghold. Either way, the loyal
warrior is all too willing to sacrifice itself in order to destroy those who would
do its master harm. Keep circulating the tapes
and end transmission. (static)

These Termites Turn Your House into a Palace of Poop | Deep Look

These Termites Turn Your House into a Palace of Poop | Deep Look


That lump on the side of this tree in the
Amazon? It’s packed with termites. In the rainforest, that’s a good thing. They break down wood into stuff other creatures
can eat. But inside our homes, termites are pests. They cost us billions of dollars of damage
every year. Take these dampwood termites that live on
the cool California coast. They eat wood that’s wet or decayed, maybe
from a leak in your house. Slowly, but surely, they gnaw and scrape away. What comes out the other end isn’t waste. It serves as a kind of mortar. And dried poop pellets make perfect building
blocks for their nests. In other words, they’re turning your house
into theirs. What’s amazing is that they can digest wood, which is so hard, and get nutrients out of it. We certainly can’t do that. Termites are one of the only animals that
can. It turns out they don’t do this alone. Researchers are looking inside termites to
figure out who’s actually responsible for this feat. At the Exploratorium, in San Francisco, museum
biologists give the insect a little puff of carbon dioxide. When it’s nice and relaxed, the termite
poops itself. Under the microscope, multitudes appear. Hundreds of species of microbes live packed
inside a termite’s gut, about one one-thousandth of a teaspoon. This big one is called Trichonympha. It’s not an animal, plant or fungus. It’s a protist. Watch it move with the help of its flagella. Protists like Trichonympha are essential for
termites to turn the wood into a source of energy. They do this by fermenting the wood, much
the same way a brewer turns grain into beer. Something else is hidden deep in the termite’s
gut: a powerful bacterium that combines nitrogen from the air and calories from the wood to
make protein. That’s like turning a potato into a steak. Termites can’t live without their microbes. And many of these microbes can’t live outside
the termite. So what if we used the microbes against their
hosts? Right now, when we want to get rid of termites,
we fumigate our houses with poison. But maybe we could just kill the protists
instead. Louisiana State University entomologists are
engineering a gut bacterium to kill gut protists. They’d sneak the bacteria into the termite
colony on something the termites would eat. The bacteria would kill the protists that
help the termites digest wood, leaving them surrounded by food but starving. Hi there. It’s Amy. One other thing about termites and their microbes:
termites aren’t born with them. Adults feed babies a kind of starter kit when
they’re little, the same way human moms give their babies good microbes in their breast
milk. Thanks for watching. And while you’re here, subscribe.