The sighting, by a team of wildlife conservationists this January, proves that the world's largest bee had not gone extinct since it was last documented by scientists 38 years ago, though its habitat in a group of Indonesian islands called the North Moluccas is threatened by deforestation. The team recorded the bee on photo and video for the first time.
"It was absolutely breathtaking to see this 'flying bulldog' of an insect that we weren't sure existed any more," conservation photographer Clay Bolt, who took the first pictures of the living female bee, said, according to The Guardian. "To actually see how beautiful and big the species is in life, to hear the sound of its giant wings thrumming as it flew past my head, was just incredible."
So Eli Wyman and I did a thing! https://t.co/roNG3lICD2 https://t.co/roNG3lICD2— Clay Bolt (@Clay Bolt)1550760836.0
Wallace's Giant Bee, scientific name Megachile pluto, was made known to Western science by Alfred Russel Wallace, an English entomologist who worked with Charles Darwin on the theory of evolution. Wallace documented the bee, which now bears his name, on an expedition in 1859, according to The New York Times.
The bee was next seen by scientists more than 100 years later when entomologist Adam Messer observed multiple Wallace's Giant Bees in 1981 and took specimens back to museums in New York and London. Messer noted that they use their large jaws to scrape wood and tree resin into balls to make stronger nests. There have been several other attempts to document the bee, but none have proven successful until now.
"I personally know of at least five attempts to find the bee," Bolt told The New York Times.
This particular attempt was partly funded by the group Global Wildlife Conservation, which is searching for 25 lost species including the bee and the Fernandina Galápagos Tortoise, which was sighted for the first time in more than 100 years this Sunday.
The world’s largest #bee, Wallace’s Giant Bee (Megachile pluto), has been rediscovered! This marks the 2nd rediscov… https://t.co/yjW3f4oET7— Global Wildlife Conservation (@Global Wildlife Conservation)1550766617.0
The scientists involved with the search were partly concerned that announcing the bee's survival would bring it to the attention of collectors, and, because of this, decided not to announce exactly what island they found it on. Last year, a specimen of the insect was sold on eBay for $9,100.
"If you can get that much money for an insect, that encourages people to go and find them," team member and University of Sydney biologist Dr. Simon Robson told The New York Times.
However, the team agreed that making the announcement opened up important conservation opportunities.
"We know that putting the news out about this rediscovery could seem like a big risk given the demand, but the reality is that unscrupulous collectors already know that the bee is out there," Global Wildlife Conservation biologist Robin Moore said, according to The Guardian. "By making the bee a world-famous flagship for conservation we are confident that the species has a brighter future than if we just let it quietly be collected into oblivion."
We're proud to announce the rediscovery of Wallace's Giant Bee, last seen in 1981! https://t.co/FWCXQgYvjN via @BBCWorld @hbriggs— Global Wildlife Conservation (@Global Wildlife Conservation)1550778059.0
The region of Indonesia where the bees are found lost seven percent of its forest from 2001 to 2017, according to Global Forest Watch data reported by The New York Times."Amid such a well-documented global decline in insect diversity it's wonderful to discover that this iconic species is still hanging on," Robson said in a University of Sydney press release.
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The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.
"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."
The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.
They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.
They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.
But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.
"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.
What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.
It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.
To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.
First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.
Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.
University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.
"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."
Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.
"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.
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In 'Road Map for a More Sustainable Future,' NY Regulator Tells Banks to Consider Climate Risks in Planning
By Brett Wilkins
Regulators in New York state announced Thursday that banks and other financial services companies are expected to plan and prepare for risks posed by the climate crisis.
There are many different CBD oil brands in today's market. But, figuring out which brand is the best and which brand has the strongest oil might feel challenging and confusing. Our simple guide to the strongest CBD oils will point you in the right direction.
A NASA spacecraft has successfully collected a sample from the Bennu asteroid more than 200 million miles away from Earth. The samples were safely stored and will be preserved for scientists to study after the spacecraft drops them over the Utah desert in 2023, according to the Associated Press (AP).
Exxon Mobil will lay off an estimated 14,000 workers, about 15% of its global workforce, including 1,900 workers in the U.S., the company announced Thursday.
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