Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Spiders, Scorpions, and What Not, Part 6: Solifuges

Solifuges are arachnids of the order Solifugae, which includes more than 1,000 described species up to this date. Despite to being commonly referred to as camel spiders, wind scorpions, or sun spiders, they are neither true spiders nor true scorpions, though they are more closely related to the latter than to the former. Like spiders, solifuges have two separate body segments, the cephalothorax and the abdomen. Found on the head are chelicerae that are very large and highly discernible in most species of solifuges. In fact, the chelicerae are longer than the cephalothorax in many species. The chelicerae of solifuges are crab-like, and have a variable number of serrate teeth, the number largely depending on the species.

Solifuge

A number of urban legends exaggerate the size and speed of the solifuges, and their potential danger to humans, all of which are negligible. It is their fast movements and their unfamiliar spider-like appearance are what scare people the most. However, if someone was to aggravate, provoke, or frighten a solifuge into attacking, the bite would indeed be very painful, considering the size and strength of the chelicerae, as they can shear off hair or feathers off of prey or carrion and cut through the bones of small birds, but they never need any medical attention other than the ones for a flesh wound. 

There are a few things to remember about these frightening creatures. Solifuges cannot produce venom, thus rendering them a non-venomous type of species. Also, solifuges are not prone to attack humans. They aren't especially large, the largest having a leg span of 12 cm. However, they are the fastest of the arachnids, with an estimated top speed of 10 mph, so most people can outrun them if they have to. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Spiders, Scorpions, and What Not, Part 5: Mites

Mites, along with ticks, are small arthropods that belong to the subclass of Acarina. They are among the most diverse and successful of all of the invertebrate groups. They have managed to exploit an incredible array of habitats and because they are so small (the majority being microscopic), they often go unnoticed. It is estimated that there a total of 48,200 different species of mites that have been described up to this date. Many mites live freely in soil or water, but there are also a large number of species that live as parasites on plants, animals, and some that feed on mold.

Tuckerella sp.

Mites, in general, are harmless to humans. However, there are a few species of mites that can colonize humans directly, acting as vectors for disease transmission, or cause or contribute to allergenic diseases. Mites that colonize the human skin are the cause of several different types of itchy skin rashes, such as grain itch, grocer's itch, and scabies. Chiggers are known for for their itchy bites, but they can also spread diseases in some limited circumstances, such as scrub typhusDust mite are known to cause several different forms of allergenic diseases, such as hay fever, asthma, and eczema, and are also known to aggravate atopic dermatitis.

Chigger

Spiders, Scorpions, and What Not, Part 4: Ticks

Ticks are small arachnids that belong to the order of Parasitiformes. They, along with mites, constitute the subclass of Acarina. Adult ticks have eight legs, like all arachnids, and their body consists of two separate segments. There main body segment, the abdomen, is often at least twice as large as the cephalothorax. There are a total of over 900 different species of ticks spread across three different families. These families are Nuttalliellidae, comprised of a single species, Ixodidae, the hard ticks and comprised of over 700 species, and Argasidae, the soft tick and comprised of about 200 species of ticks.

Nuttalliella namaqua

Ticks are often vectors for many different types of diseases. Some major tick-borne diseases include Lyme disease, Q fever, Colorado tick fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, African tick bite fever, Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever, tularemia, tick-borne relapsing fever, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, and tick-borne meningoencephalitis. In fact, some ticks can carry more than one disease at a time, and as a result, can infect a host with more than one pathogen simultaneously. Despite this terrible characteristic ticks have, they play an important ecological role by making weak animals sick and thus preventing overgrazing of plant resources. If you are to have tick on you, the best method of removing it is by freezing it off with a medical wart remover or something of the like.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Spiders, Scorpions, and What Not, Part 3: Harvestmen

The harvestmen are arachnids that belong to the order of Opiliones, formerly the Phalangida. There were over 6,500 species of harvestmen discovered by December 2011, although the total number of extant species might as well be over 10,000. Harvestmen, sometimes called daddy longlegs, have three defining characteristics that help us distinguish them from other arachnids. These characteristics are that they have a single pair of eyes, their body segments are fused into a single segment, and their legs are immensely long.

Harvestman

In the total truth, harvestmen are not venomous, and are not a threat to humans in any way. However, there is one characteristic of theirs that might freak some people out. When a harvestman is attacked by a predator or is startled, it will simply lose one of it's long legs. But, to ensure the actual harvestman stays alive, it uses another method. After it's leg falls off, it just continues to twitch. This happens thanks to the "pacemakers" found at the base of their legs, which send electrical signals that tell the muscles in the leg to continue to contract and relax in a rhythmic pattern. Although the legs of most species only twitch for about a minute, other species' legs have been clocked to twitch for about an hour before stopping.

Spiders, Scorpions, and What Not, Part 2: Scorpions

Scorpions are predatory arachnids of the order Scorpiones. They have eight legs can be easily identified by their pair of pedipalps that resemble pincers and their narrow, segmented tail that is often carried in the famous curved fashion and ends with a stinger. The are there are about 1750 different described species of scorpion to date, and these scorpions are separated into 13 extant families. Scorpions can range in size from 9 millimeters (Typhlochactas mitchellito 23 centimeters (Hadogenes troglodytes).

Hadogenes troglodytes

Scorpions have a direct relationship between size and venom potency. The rule is that the bigger the scorpion is, the less potent the venom they produce is. This results in several different outcomes. One of these would be that while the bigger scorpions are unreasonably feared, the smaller ones are unreasonably belittled.  Another outcome is the larger scorpions are often captured and sold as exotic pets.

Depending on the potency of the venom that the scorpion injects, a scorpion sting can have different side effects. The sting of a large scorpion would usually just result in some pain and a bit of swelling. The sting of a medium sized scorpion could result in nausea, dizziness, and other minor side effects. The sting of a small scorpion could result, depending on what the venom consists of, in paralysis, heart failure, heart attack, or even death.  A scorpion with the most potent venom is called Leiurus quinquestriatus, commonly called the deathstalker.

Leiurus quinquestraitus

Spiders, Scorpions, and What Not, Part 1: Spiders

Spiders often appear in one's nightmares and some will even run out of the room if they see a spider in it. Their relatives are often seen as things of evil and demise. Most people fail to realize that most of these tales are completely false. There are some things that you must know about these "terrifying" creatures.

Spiders and their relatives, such as scorpions, harvestmen, ticks, mites, and solifuges, all belong to the class Arachnida. All of these joint-legged invertebrates (meaning that they don't have a backbone) have four pairs of legs (with exceptions) and consist of two body segments, the abdomen and the cephalothorax, a fusion of the head and thorax. In addition to the eight legs, they have two pairs appendages specialized for different purposes. The first pair, called the chelicerae, serve for feeding and defense. The second pair are called pedipalps, which are use for feeding, locomotion, and sometimes reproductive purposes. Arachnids also lack both antennae and wings, which most clearly distinguishes them from insects.

Spiders are air-breathing arthropods with chelicerae with fangs that inject venom, though some have lost their fangs. They also possess appendages in their abdomens called spinnerets, which they use to spin silk, although not all spiders do so. They belong to the order Araneae, the largest order of the arachnids and they also rank seventh in total species diversity amongst the other orders. All known species of spider are predatory, with exception of Bagheera kiplingi, which is herbivorous.

Bagheera kiplingi

Although all spiders are capable of producing venom, most of them do not possess fangs long enough to pierce our skin, and those that have fangs that are long enough, their venom is often not potent enough to kill us. The spiders that you truly have to watch out for include the Brown Recluse spider, Widow spiders, Hobo spider, Mouse spiders, Funnel-Web spider, White-Tail spider, and Black House spider. In fact some spiders are very helpful killing off unwanted pests. Such an example is the spider Heteropoda venatoria. This spider, growing to a size of 3 to 4 inches wide (legs included), actually prey on the infamous cockroaches and other household pests. The truth is that spiders enter a house either by accident or because there is a viable food source found inside of the household. Spiders don't stay in a place where they will starve to death.

Heteropoda venatoria size comparison

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Start of It All

Hello, my name is Alexei Kiyan, and welcome to my first ever blog post. I have been a fanatic of every single living and breathing thing that has been found on our home planet, the Earth. Yet, I have always wondered, when did I really become obsessed with it. The vastness of just the recollections of my love is always what stops me from trying to find out. So today, I am going to, for the first time, attempt to figure out when I became captivated by nature.

The oldest memory involving me and "nature" that I can recollect would be my first time I have ever been to Butterfly World, a small butterfly park found in Southern Florida. I was about 3 or 4 years old at the time. Due to my very young age at the time, I don't really have much come off of. What I do remember from that day was that when I entered the park, I remember my parents getting one of those park maps and a field guide with all the types of butterflies, birds, insects, and such that could be found inside of the park. What I also remember is that, even though the sight was miraculous, I was trying a bit to hard to prevent the butterflies from landing on me.

Ever since then I have been scouring every place imaginable find out as much about the world around me. For example, I have obtained over 20 books regarding single thing that is included in the topic of natural history. With such vast resources, am able to do quite a good amount of things. For one, I am fully capable of distinguishing seemingly identical species by looking at them. One recent example of this would be when I was sitting in my room and I saw a cormorant-like bird sitting at the base of a tree drying it's wings. At first glance, I assumed that is was an anhinga, a bird found in southern North American swamps. Then, as a looked closer, I realized that it was just a double-crested cormorant, seeing that the bill was curved instead of straight, it didn't have the black-with-white-spots-and-streaks plumage characteristic of anhingas, and it had an orange throat patch.



Some other things have happened ever since I became engrossed with nature. One of these things involved a school project. Every year, my old school would host a science fair in which all of the student had to participate. When I was in 5th grade, I had decided to make science fair project that involved blowflies. Blowflies are a family of carrion flies that can often carry diseases such as dysentery. The teachers barely allowed me to even conduct such an experiment, even after my mom assured that there would be no physical contact between me and the blowflies. The next year, the school prohibited everyone from using any organisms in their experiments.