Archive for the ‘Health And Fitness’ Category

A wasp never forgets a face

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

A wasp never forgets a face
By Science Online’s Clare Pain

Posted December 02, 2011 21:06:04

A female Poliste fuscatus paper wasp. Photo: Being able to visually recognise faces makes sense living in a situation with multiple queens. (Science/AAAS)
Map: United States

Primates have a face recognition system that enables them to distinguish between individuals, and now it seems some wasps do too.

But the new study has also found wasps are likely to have evolved their ability quite separately and it may work in a different way.

Michael Sheehan, a PhD student at the University of Michigan in the USA, and his supervisor, Dr Elizabeth Tibbetts, report their discovery in the latest issue of Science.

“We know that the same area of the brain in other primates does the same thing and it’s also the same brain area in sheep”, Mr Sheehan said.

“But as far as I’m aware, our work is the first example of face recognition in an invertebrate – certainly in an insect.”

Mr Sheehan studied two closely related species of paper wasps that live in Michigan and found one could recognise faces while the other could not.

“The two species are essentially the same in all aspects – they even build nests next to each other,” he said.

“They only differ in the number of queens in a nest.”

The species that could recognise faces, Polistes fuscatus, founds nests containing multiple queens – typically three or four queens but sometimes as many as eight.

The other species, Polistes metricus, has nests with only one queen.

Being able to visually recognise faces makes sense with living in a situation with multiple queens.

“There is a linear dominance hierarchy”, Mr Sheehan said.

“The top queen does lots of reproduction and not much work. The queen at the very bottom of the hierarchy does lots of work and not much reproduction.”

He believes wasps need to be able to recognise the different queens.

The scientists already knew that the P. fuscatus wasps could recognise each other, but they wanted to know whether the wasps were using a special face recognition system to do it.
Escaping the buzz

Mr Sheehan captured wild queen wasps from nests of both species to test in an experiment.

The wasps had to crawl through a T-shaped maze in which the floor was slightly electrified, except for a ‘safe area’ in one of the arms.

When the wasps reached the junction of the maze they had to choose between left or right, not knowing which side the safe area would be on.

Rather like signs at a road junction, Mr Sheehan put a different picture of a wasp face on each arm. One face was associated with the safe area.

Between each trial, the safe area was moved randomly between the arms, so the wasps needed to ‘read the sign’ to make the right decision at the junction.

The P. fuscatus wasps rapidly learned which face meant safety, but the P. metricus wasps did no better than chance.

Mr Sheehan then repeated the experiment using signs consisting of simple patterns instead of faces, and also tried pictures of different caterpillars, which are the wasps’ main food source.

Both species of wasp learned to read the pattern and caterpillar signs equally well.

But for P. fuscatus, success was much better when the signs were faces.

“Their overall performance is more accurate and their rate of learning is faster [when they are using faces]“, Mr Sheehan said.

He believes this is evidence faces are being detected by a special face-processing system.
Antenna cue highlights different system

Further evidence for a special system is that the wasps cannot recognise digitally altered photos of wasps with their antennas removed.

“It’s as if the antenna cues the wasp [that it is dealing with a face]“, Mr Sheehan said.

Dr Romina Palermo of the Australian National University in Canberra says there is no real parallel to the antenna cue in human face recognition, which suggests the wasps may be using quite a different system.

“In terms of being able to understand the evolution of face recognition this work is important”, Dr Palermo said.

“The brains of humans and wasps are very different.”

She thinks it is interesting face recognition has evolved in the species where there is cooperation between queens, and she wonders which came first -cooperation or the ability to recognise faces.

“The next step is to figure out the similarities and differences between the human and wasp systems”, she says.

Mr Sheehan believes face recognition has probably evolved several times and thinks it is striking that there is such a dramatic difference in face recognition ability between two very closely related species of wasp.

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People and Lizards Endangered by Superstition

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

The Tokay Gecko has been claimed by uninformed people, even hucksters, as a cure for anything from HIV, diabetes, cancer to asthma and skin cancer. In, Asia traditional culture holds the consumption of animals parts to be beneficial for a variety of illnesses, but there is no proof, and the myth causes an enormous number of innocent animals to be captured and consumed.

“TRAFFIC is alarmed at the massive increase in trade of these geckos. If the trade continues to mushroom, it could take years to repair the damage currently being inflicted on gecko populations,” said an official from the non-profit organization monitoring illegal trade in wildlife. (Source: Washington Post)

Reportedly the lie that consuming Tokay Geckos can cure HIV has been making the rounds on blogs, news articles, advertisements and comes also from some wildlife dealers.

People spreading the misinformation are merely profiting by deceiving a naive, consuming public. Can you imagine telling someone sick with HIV to buy a lizard from you as a cure? Any truly sick person who consumed a lizard, rather than getting competent medical treatment could become gravely ill, or even die. It must be well known in most parts of the world eating a lizard is not a cure for any real illness.

Perhaps the individuals responsible for spreading the myth should be punished for animal cruelty, as their actions are resulting in the deaths of animals for no good reason.

Trade in the nocturnal geckos was banned in the Philippines due to rampant sales.

Image Credit: Nick Hobgood/ WikiCommons


Related Links

Turn in Exotic Animals Day
Another Rhino Population Goes Extinct

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My 4 Favorite Medicinal Weeds

Monday, November 14th, 2011


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Me-dic-i-nal: of, or having the properties of medicine.—Webster’s New World Dictionary

Some people call them weeds, while others bow in respect to these plants that have been used as medicine long before the pharmaceutical industry attempted to copy their properties in synthetic form. Each spring I look forward to finding my favorite plants bursting to life in my lawn and garden. I have come to know these plants for the nutrients they provide my body, as tonics after a long winter and as medicines I can use to heal whatever might ail me.

At the moment these so-called “weeds” are coming in strong and healthy and a good thing too, because the young plants are perfect for moving my kidneys out of winter hibernation and welcoming liver energy for spring. I will use them in fresh salads, in soups, to make mineral rich vinegars and medicinal tinctures for healing the body. I will share with you my experience with each plant and include bits of information written by many knowledgeable herbalists I have read or studied. These plants have become friends over the years and I hope they will assist your life and health as they have mine.

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10 Natural Ways to Ease Depression

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011
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If you are suffering from depression or seasonal depression, there are many natural options that can help.  Of course, you should always see a doctor as well.

1. Supplement with Vitamin D

This vitamin, which is more accurately termed a hormone, has been recently found to play a role in the number of depressive symptoms experienced.  Researchers at the University of Massachusetts studied a group of post-menopausal women for a possible correlation between vitamin D and the symptoms of depression.  They found that the lower the levels of vitamin D the women had, the more likely they were to experience symptoms of depression.

2. Eat Complex Carbs

If you’re eating a high protein diet or if your diet lacks whole grains, you may be deficient in the building blocks to make important the important neurotransmitter serotonin in your brain—a natural chemical that helps regulate mood.  Add fruits and vegetables, beans, and whole grains to your diet.

3. Skip the Caffeine

Research links caffeinated beverages with suppression of serotonin.  By skipping the coffee or tea, you’ll give your brain a better chance to make sufficient serotonin to maintain balanced moods.

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How to Stop Panic Attacks and Get Rid of Anxiety Without Drugs By John Cielo Platinum Quality Author

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Want to know how to stop panic attacks and, in doing so, help get rid of your anxiety? Here, you’ll discover what causes your panic attacks, how to eliminate them, and, how this helps get rid of your general anxiety. And you don’t need drugs either.

It is possible to have such high anxiety levels that a further increase in stress or anxiety can actually trigger a panic attack. And this is how many attacks occur. The sufferer is already under a great deal of stress or anxiety, for any number of reasons, and some stressful event, such as being in a very crowded supermarket, can push their levels so high that a panic attack is triggered.

The problem about having a panic attack, is that the symptoms are so horrifying that you just don’t ever want to repeat it. Unfortunately, that very fear of an attack happening again can be the very thing that can trigger it. And when you think about it, it makes sense. Since an increase in anxiety over a certain limit can cause an attack, and, your fear of having another attack just adds to that general anxiety.

But there are two things going on here, your underlying general anxiety and your panic attacks. Generally, your doctor will prescribe drugs to help control mood and to help calm you. But, although they can work fine for some people, they don’t for others. And there are some serious side effects that can put people off.

You can also use non-drug therapies such as psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, counseling, support groups, yoga, other relaxation techniques and acupuncture, etc. And often these are combined with drug-based medication to good effect.

But, whichever route you take, there is one critical issue that can hold back your eventual cure, and that is your fear of panic attacks, either subconscious or realized. As long as you have this, it can be difficult to deal with your underlying general anxiety, because your fear feeds your anxiety. It is a vicious anxiety cycle that you need to break out of.

And you do that by ridding yourself of your fear of panic attacks. Once you can do this, you stop having attacks, so that you can then concentrate on getting rid of your general anxiety, which you can by totally natural means, without expensive drugs with their horrible side effects.

At the heart of this natural approach is to confront your fear head-on and so help to diffuse it. And there are techniques to help you do this. I can’t go into the details here, but the following exercise will illustrate a key plank of the effectiveness of confronting your fear…

Make yourself have a panic attack right now! Go on, do everything you can to have one. See what I mean? You can’t make yourself have one, because you’re confronting your fear by trying to trigger one. And in confronting that fear, you’re diffusing it.

Next, for more information about the simple ONE MOVE technique that will eliminate your fear factor and so break your vicious cycle of anxiety, please go here now and get your old self back again.

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Triactol – Natural – Pure – Proven

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Triactol is the next generation breast enlargement product that is taking  the health and beauty market by storm.

Appearance has never  been as important as it is now and women are desperately seeking affordable ways to enlarge their breasts without undergoing dangerous surgery! Luckily now there is a product for them, Triactol!


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