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Tag Archive for: pci

See Fire Ants Create Towers From Their Own Bodies

See Fire Ants Create Towers From Their Own Bodies

To gain insights on how to program swarms of tiny robots, scientists are studying one of nature’s most cohesive species—fire ants.

When the insects work together, they’re a force to be reckoned with. The small creatures are capable of using their bodies to create towering structures of more than 30 stacked ants and buoying themselves into a raft so buoyant it stays afloat even when a human hand forces it under water.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have been working for years to analyze how ants socially and physically form such elaborate globs without a leader or a discernable overall plan.

In a study recently published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, high-speed cameras show ants banding together to form a tower around a slippery rod. The coordination results in a bell-shaped structure, similar to that of the Eiffel tower.

Scientists had previously observed ants creating these towering structures from their own bodies, and the video offers a fresh look at the phenomenon.

The process to create these towers is less of a delicate dance and more trial and error. According to the study, an individual ant is capable of supporting as many as three other ants, which it connects to using sticky pads on its feet.

If an ant takes on more weight than it can bear, the ants fall away from the tower like a cascading avalanche. By continuously scrambling over each other, the ants are able to eventually build a solid base, building on each other from the bottom up.

Scientists believe this behavior is used as a temporary structure after events like floods. Scaling tall structures allows them to hunt for empty spaces in which they can create new homes.

Because the ants are continuously sinking, they must repeatedly climb over each other until they reach shelter, making their towers dynamic rather than static.

“The ants are circulating like a water fountain, in reverse,” one of the study’s authors told Nature.

Unsinkable Ants
The dynamics of their static structures was discovered by the same research group in 2014 when they studied how ants formed such robust raft structures.

By swirling a bunch of ants into a cup, the ants naturally formed a dough-like ball by grabbing onto each other with their sticky legs. Forming perpendicular to one another, the ants were able to evenly distribute their weight, creating a raft that floated even when one of the researchers fully submerged it in water.

While not known to be particularly intelligent as individuals, ants are adept at collectively working and communicating through a complex system of pheromones and sounds inaudible to the human ear.

Researchers hope that small robots can be programmed to form rafts and bridges of their own.

“Imagine robots that need to construct a barrier or patch a hole during a disaster response,” one of the 2014 study’s authors told Nature.

Source: NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

H1N1 bigger killer than dengue and malaria in Maharashtra

H1N1 bigger killer than dengue and malaria in Maharashtra

Mumbai: The H1N1 influenza virus which entered the list of infectious diseases with a global pandemic in 2009, has overtaken dengue and malaria to become the biggest killer among seasonal ailments in Maharashtra.

Since its appearance, the viral infection has claimed nearly 2,500 lives in the state, about five times the fatalities caused by dengue and three times that of malaria in the same period. The viral infection is now next only to tuberculosis and AIDS in the state’s list of top contagious killer diseases. TB and AIDS together are responsible for more than 10,000 deaths in the state annually.

While annual death toll of dengue and malaria have reduced to double digits over the years, H1N1, initially called swine flu, has managed to spring a surprise almost every alternate year, killing hundreds. In the first half of 2017 alone, 247 people died of the airborne disease in Maharashtra, including 10 in Mumbai. Three deaths occurred in the last week, two of the victims being a pregnant woman and another a TB patient.

Dr A C Dhariwal, director of National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), said HINI “has indeed changed the way we used to tackle viral fever in the country. Apart from Maharashtra, Gujarat and Kerala are also badly affected”.

In January-June this year, H1N1 claimed more lives in Maharashtra than malaria which has caused one fatality and dengue two.

The resurgence comes after a lull in 2016 when far fewer deaths (26) were reported. In 2015, the state had witnessed its worst outbreak with 905 deaths.

Experts say its mode of transmission—through infected droplets released into the air—makes control or prevention almost as challenging as in the case of tuberculosis. “In dengue and malaria, we can attack the vector and control the disease. But your combat tools are limited when the fight is against an airborne disease that provides a limited window to treat,” said Dr Satish Pawar, head of Directorate of Health Services (DHS), Maharashtra.

Pawar says tuberculosis, except the cerebral type, takes at least a few years to take a life-threatening form, whereas H1N1’s progression is exceptionally rapid. “Doctors often tend to wait for test reports, which is costing us lives,” he said, explaining why a viral disease is causing such a high number of casualties. In addition, he says, mostly people with underlying health problems are succumbing to the disease.

Infectious disease expert Dr Om Srivastava said clinical challenges of treating H1N1 are unique. “The antiviral oseltamivir works for most cases, but some patients who deteriorate despite treatment,” he said, adding dengue and malaria no longer pose the threat they did even a few years ago. “Dengue has less than 1% mortality and less than 3% hospitalisation rate if all basics of treatment are followed. In H1N1, however, mortality could go up to 20% if treatment has not been started in the first five days,” he said.

Epidemiologist Dr Pradeep Awate though feels much of the hype around H1N1 is because of enhanced surveillance. “We keep a count of every single case and death. In my personal opinion, TB is a much bigger public health problem, and if drug-resistant cases keep growing we may have to go back to the TB asylum era,” he said. “But of course it’s true that influenza surveillance began only after H1N1,” he added.

A senior physician from KEM Hospital said, “All these decades we lost countless lives to seasonal influenza, but didn’t know the magnitude. These numbers should force the government to design vaccination plans and build awareness campaigns around coughing etiquette or hand-washing,” the doctor said, adding the government needs to allocate more funds for influenza control.

Source: THE TIMES OF INDIA

Beware of repeated dengue afflictions

Beware of repeated dengue afflictions

Docs Warn That Fatality Risk Increases Due To Reaction Between Antibodies Present In The Body From Primary & Secondary Infections
Even as dengue ravages Kerala, health experts are confused by the uncommon traits and complications that were recently observed in patients.

The pattern of dengue deaths also indicates that mortality rate was high among patients who were repeatedly diagnosed with the disease.

If a person gets dengue for the first time (type-I), proper rest and medication will help in combating fever and antibodies will be generated in the body that will give life-long immunity against the type-I variety. But, when the same person is exposed to mosquito bites and gets dengue (type-II or type-III), a new set of antibodies will be generated in the body. Antibodies generated in the primary infection and secondary infection react, resulting in grave complications that may even lead to the death of the patient.

Through virus uptake and replication, type-I antibodies will intensify and complicate the typeII virus by a process called antibody dependent immune enhancement. “When a person is tested positive for dengue, prescribed antibiotics will only treat the symptoms of fever and not the virus.Like any other viral fever, dengue virus will subside and antibodies will be generated in a week. When a person is affected by dengue twice or thrice, the reaction of subsequent antibodies will lead to internal bleeding and cause dengue haemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome that may lead to death,” said associate professor of community medicine at Thiruvananthapuram medical college Dr Althaf A.

The scattered information and diagnoses are yet to be compiled and analysed by authorities. Sources in the health department said there was no proper database or research on such complexities.

“When autopsy was conducted in a suspected case of dengue death in 2013, we found that the person was suffering from West Nile fever, a mosquito-borne disease. Similarly , all reported deaths might not be due to dengue. We are unable to contain deaths as scientific analysis and research are lacking,” said Dr Althaf.

There are four different strains of dengue and for a person repeatedly afflicted with dengue, the risk factor goes up. “Severe internal bleeding or blood loss can occur due to the reaction of antibodies already present in hisher body . This is a matter we have to address through research,” said former state nodal officer (communicable diseases) Dr Amar Fettle.

Genetic mutation in disease causing virus is also suspected to be one of the major reasons for the increase in fatalities, said experts. “The spontaneous changes in genetic coding of dengue causing virus can be one of the reasons for the complications.Similar to the mutation seen in H1N1 virus, dengue causing virus is suspected to have undergone genetic mutation. H1N1 virus was seen only in animals at first, it later it was transmitted to humans and by 2008, due to mutation, H1N1 virus was transmitted from one human to another,” said Dr Althaf.

Doctors, who treat dengue, have also no ticed the change in symptoms. “Many patients who seek treatment for diarrhoea; throat pain and vomiting are later diagnosed with dengue. The symptoms were high fever, back and abdominal pain. It is not the same now,” said a doctor at the general hospital in the capital on condition of anonymity .

“The Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are responsible for the outbreak.These mosquitoes can cause chikungunya, yellow fever and Zika fever.Our environment is very receptive to these diseases and we are vulnerable,” he said.

Dengue cases have risen in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Alappuzha, Palakkad, Malappuram and Kozhikode this year and the disease has become round-the-year problem over the past three years.

Source: THE TIMES OF INDIA

Mumbai: 53-year-old woman dies of lung infection from fungi in pigeon droppings

Mumbai: 53-year-old woman dies of lung infection from fungi in pigeon droppings

Last year, when 26-year-old Naitik Zota took his mother Jayshri (53) to a pulmonologist following a severe about of breathlessness, the doctor confronted him with a bizarre question: Do you have pigeons in the vicinity of your home? When Zota told him about the presence of a kabutarkhana next door, the doctor advised him to place nets on the windows of his home, and move Jayshri to a room that wouldn’t be frequented by the birds. The advice, unfortunately, came late.

A few weeks later, Jayshri died of a lung infection, which the doctor alleges was the result of harmful fungi present in pigeon droppings.

Several residents of Neelkamal Cooperative Society in Borivli East, where Jayshri lived, say they too have been victims of ill health for the last eight years since the kabutarkhana came up close to their homes. They have complained of lung infection, breathing problems and asthma. After repeated complaints to local bodies fell on deaf ears, the society members filed a complaint with the BMC health department last month, demanding immediate action against the growing menace. But, the BMC is yet to act on their complaint.

Last year, when 26-year-old Naitik Zota took his mother Jayshri (53) to a pulmonologist following a severe bout of breathlessness, the doctor confronted him with a bizarre question: Do you have pigeons in the vicinity of your home? When Zota told him about the presence of a kabutarkhana next door, the doctor advised him to place nets on the windows of his home, and move Jayshri to a room that wouldn’t be frequented by the birds. The advice, unfortunately, came late.

A few weeks later, Jayshri died of a lung infection, which the doctor alleges was the result of harmful fungi present in pigeon droppings.

Several residents of Neelkamal Cooperative Society in Borivli East, where Jayshri lived, say they too have been victims of ill health for the last eight years since the kabutarkhana came up close to their homes. They have complained of lung infection, breathing problems and asthma. After repeated complaints to local bodies fell on deaf ears, the society members filed a complaint with the BMC health department last month, demanding immediate action against the growing menace. But, the BMC is yet to act on their complaint.

At Jaslok, Dr JR Shah, consultant pulmonologist, attribute her illness to pigeon droppings. “But, by then, my mother’s lung capacity had decreased by 40 per cent,” said Zota of his mum, who succumbed a few weeks later. “In severe cases, patients develop interstitial fibrosis that causes irreversible scarring of the lungs, like it happened with Jayshri. It affects the exit and entry of air to the lungs. This happens when a person lives in close proximity to pigeons or hens. I get five to six such cases every year,” said Dr Shah, referring to what’s probably a city-wide menace.

Residents at risk
“The kabutarkhana is causing health problems and many people are suffering from respiratory diseases. The physicians to whom these people consulted have opined to get rid of the pigeon feeding that starts every morning (sic),” reads the complaint copy. More than 40 residents have also submitted a petition.

Hitesh Upadhayay, a resident of the society, said that around three months ago, his wife suddenly developed trouble breathing. “There is a Jain temple inside the society where devotees come and feed the pigeons. The feeding continues till late evening,” said Upadhayay.

Medical experts recommend that patients with low immunity or history of respiratory problems should stay away from pigeon breeding grounds.

Dr Balwant Samant, a retired professor with KEM Hospital, explained that the problem is caused due to exposure to the soil, where the pigeons leave their droppings. When the droppings dry and scatter in the soil, microscopic fragments from it break away and become airborne. “These particles contain dormant fungi and bacteria that people around end up inhaling. It gets inside the lungs and becomes a breeding ground for infectious agents.”

BMC clueless

In 2016, when the issue raised in a BMC meeting, authorities had proposed to add fertility control pills in pigeon food to control the population. There has been no progress so far.

A senior health officer from the BMC, said, “People consider feeding pigeons a religious act. Most kabutarkhanas in the city are illegal, and usually near places of worship. We have been dissuading residents from feeding pigeons.”

When mid-day reached out to Dr Padmaja Keskar, health officer, BMC, she said she would look into the matter.

Source: MidDay

Radiohead has newly discovered ants species named after it

Radiohead has newly discovered ants species named after it

A new species of ant, discovered in the Venezuelan Amazon, has been named after Radiohead in honour of their contributions to music and conservation efforts.

As noted by Phys.org, Ana Ješovnik and Ted R. Schultz — of Washington’s Smithsonian Institution’s Ant Lab — discovered three species of ants while collecting data for a study. One of those — the Sericomyrmex radioheadi — was named after the upcoming Glastonbury headliner.

“We wanted to honour their music,” Ješovnik, said. “But more importantly, we wanted to acknowledge the conservation efforts of the band members, especially in raising climate-change awareness.”

Sericomyrmex literally translates to ‘silky ants’, a fungus-farming species that are reportedly ‘less well-known relatives of the famous leaf-cutter ants’. The Radioheadi breed has a white, crystal-like layer covering their bodies.

Earlier this month, a species of shrimp were named after Pink Floyd; the Synalpheus Pinkfloydi have large pink claws capably of killing small fish.

Source:INDEPENDENT

Indian scientists have discovered an ant species that kidnaps others, behavior seen for the first time in the tropics

Indian scientists have discovered an ant species that kidnaps others, behavior seen for the first time in the tropics

A marauding gang of thieves is on the prowl. They find a house whose residents are in the middle of moving to another house. While the residents busy themselves attending to the chores necessary for the shift, one of the thieves moves in slyly and kidnaps the baby inside.

We are not talking about humans—these are ants.

Moving buddies
An Indian scientist has discovered this trait of kidnapping for the first time in a tropical ant species—one found in India, Sri Lanka and Japan.
Eight years ago, when Sumana Annagiri, an ecologist, relocated from the US to Kolkata, she found that she had company. A colony of ants was also moving in.
She began to observe their behaviour and what she found was fascinating. She says, “A single ant invited its nest mate and brought it along, travelling together as a tandem pair in physical contact with each other.”
It goes back and forth bringing its nest mates with it. A few other ants (about 15% of nest members) act similarly, taking up the job of leading the nest mates and in this manner, the entire colony of ants relocate to their new residence.

This mannerism, known as “tandem running”, was different from the usual manner in which ants normally relocate, which is following a chemical trail left by a member.
Captivated by this behaviour, Annagiri took up the study of this ant species Diacamma indicum, belonging to a primitive family of ants, Ponerinae, and set up the ant lab to study ant behaviour at the Indian Institute for Science Education and Research in Kolkata.
Like all ant species, these ants are eusocial, defined by three main features. One, there is an overlap of generations—a minimum of two generations is required. Two, cooperative care: The brood of the nest are pooled together and taken care of. Three, division of reproductive labour: Only one or a few members get to reproduce and lay eggs, while the rest are sterile and take care of the queen’s offspring.

In most eusocial ants, the queen is distinct from the rest of the workers due to the presence of wings and/or greater size. However, in this particular species, all the members look alike—there is no distinct queen.
All female ants are born with a thoracic gland in place of the wings. A single female worker mates and reproduces, who is known as the gamergate or the queen.
Annagiri explains, “The current ruling gamergate retains its position as the only reproductive member, by mutilating the thoracic gland of all newly born female members.” This forces them to become workers—the gamergate usually mates with a male of another colony.
These are monodomous ants—living in a single nest, as compared to some species where a single colony occupies multiple nests. The nest size is not large, members range from 12 to 261 adults.

A second surprise
It was during the course of the study, published in Nature last October, that Annagiri and her team, Bishwarup Paul and Manabi Paul, discovered another fascinating trait of these—stealing the young ones of neighbouring colonies and using these young ones as slaves for their own colony.
Usually, one ant first identifies a neighbouring colony that’s in the process of relocating. Then, one or several ants enter and raid the colony and kidnap their pupa. The ants prefer stealing pupae as opposed to the immature eggs or larvae, possibly because pupae are the last development stage, ready to grow into an adult.
The purpose of the kidnapping being that the pupae, when they become adults, can be incorporated as workers into their colony. The females are expected to be mutilated as the stolen pupae are treated in the same way as the host pupae, but this has not been tested.

Raiding other nests for young ones, food or other resources is common in the animal kingdom. The young ones, or brood of a species, are particularly vulnerable. They are often targeted to be used as food reserves of a colony.
Aggressive ant species such as army ants are especially noted for their raiding behaviour, where they form specialized columns or swarm and hunt for food, which includes the brood of other ants.
But thieving for the sake of enslaving is found only in ants. Although rare, thievery of brood for the purpose of slave-making has been known in certain ant families found in temperate regions of the world.
Of the 12,000 known ant species, about 50 species are known to be slave makers. Slave makers and their victims are usually genetically related. They could be of the same species or a related species.
In many of these species, slavery, or “dulosis”, as it is scientifically known, is obligatory. That is, these ants rely solely on workers captured in raids for colony building. All work of maintaining the nest is performed by slaves; if there are none left, the colony dies.

However, there are a few species where adults are capable of conducting all the tasks of the colony and occasionally conduct raids to increase the workforce of the colony.
Diacamma indicum seem to fall in the latter category. But their raiding pattern is different from any other species discovered so far, based on knowledge from published scientific literature. Slave-making ants typically conduct systematic raids in large groups. Diacamma indicum conducts the thefts individually, with only 1% of the colony taking up thievery.
Annagiri says, “The theft is more opportunistic in nature. When an ant goes out foraging for food such as termites and dead insects, and comes across a colony of its own species relocating, it takes the opportunity to steal the brood.”

Usually, when a colony relocates, the ants take temporary shelter in anywhere from one to eight temporary nest sites, before moving into the final nest site. They move their young, eggs and pupae along with other stored resources. Although the colony is not unguarded, they are vulnerable to predation.
Annagiri and her team observed the stealing behaviour of the ants both in their natural habitat, where they nest in cavities of stones, rocks, tree branches, trunks, fallen logs and cracks of walls, as well as in the lab.
They introduced a foreign colony inside a lab area where a colony of Diacamma indicum was already residing, to simulate relocation. Annagiri’s team recorded the brood thefts that took place. They observed that both the resident and foreign colonies attempted to steal brood from each other. The resident colonies, however, made significantly more attempts and were more successful at stealing.

But the victim colonies fought back frequently. If the thief was recognized, the colony would attack by biting, dragging, pushing down or antennal boxing. In this way, they were able to block more than half the attempts.
The team also studied the fate of the stolen pupae—if they are consumed as food like some ant species do. Using different paints to mark the foreign and resident pupae, they found that almost all stolen pupae were integrated into the colony, just like their own pupa. The stolen pupae were allowed to eclose (emerge as an adult from the pupa) and assimilated into the workforce of the colony.
Slave-making ants first find mention in Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, in which he speculated that slavery in ants probably evolved as a by-product of brood predation. In temperate regions, history of slave-making ants has been known to exist for tens of thousands of years.

Until now though, there has been no record of slave-making in the tropics, so it’s hard to guess how long slavery here has existed. Annagiri hopes that more slave-making ants among tropical species will be discovered, which will help to understand the history and evolution of slavery in ants.
For now, she and her team plan to further study this thieving behaviour. “We are exploring the mechanism of stealing, how the behaviour is modulated. Do the ants even know if they are stealing?”
Deepa Padmanaban is a freelance science journalist, whose work has appeared in National Geographic, NYmag, BBC Earth and The Atlantic, among others.

Source: Live Mint

PCI Pest Control Private Limited ranks Number 4 on Feedspot Blog Reader’s list of the Top100 Pest Control Blogs on the planet!

PCI Pest Control Private Limited ranks Number 4 on Feedspot Blog Reader’s list of the Top100 Pest Control Blogs on the planet!

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BreakingNews: PCI Pest Control Private Limited ranks Number 4 on Feedspot Blog Reader’s list of the

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