The Most Painful Places to Get Stung, According to the Researcher Who Made Bees Sting Him for Science


After getting stung by a bee, you might make a note to be more careful of your surroundings in the future. Michael Smith had a much different reaction when a bee stung him in the testicles one day. As an entomologist who studies honeybees, he was inspired by the encounter to create a map of the most painful places to get stung on the human body. Knowing he would have trouble finding willing volunteers, Smith elected to be his own test subject.

According to National Geographic, Smith tested 25 different body parts, exposing each spot to three stings over the course of 38 days for his study, which was published in PeerJ in 2014. To induce the stings, he picked up honeybee specimens by the wings and held their stingers up to his skin for a full minute. He rated the pain of each sting on a scale of 1 to 10, and started and ended all tests with a "test sting" on his forearm for comparison.

The most painful places to get stung by a bee, in Smith's experience, aren't the parts you may expect. A sting in the scrotum, the incident that inspired the study, received a 7 out of 10 on the pain scale. It was rated just as painful as stingers in the palm, cheek, and armpit. More excruciating is a sting to the penis shaft (7.3), upper lip (8.7), and nostril (9). Smith reported that being stung in the nose triggered "sneezing, tears, and a copious flow of mucus." He theorized that the flood of mucus may be the body's defense mechanism against a bee attack in the wild.

Other body parts ranked at the opposite end of the pain spectrum. Stings to the upper arm, tip of the middle toe, and top of the skull all averaged a rating of 2.3 out of 10. Smith compared getting stung on the scalp to having an egg smashed on his head.

Though some may question the value of getting stung on purpose nearly 200 times in the name of science, Smith's hard work was recognized. In 2015, he received an Ig Nobel prize: an award that honors scientific achievements "that first make people laugh, then make them think."

[h/t National Geographic]

Is There An International Standard Governing Scientific Naming Conventions?


Jelle Zijlstra:

There are lots of different systems of scientific names with different conventions or rules governing them: chemicals, genes, stars, archeological cultures, and so on. But the one I'm familiar with is the naming system for animals.

The modern naming system for animals derives from the works of the 18th-century Swedish naturalist Carl von Linné (Latinized to Carolus Linnaeus). Linnaeus introduced the system of binominal nomenclature, where animals have names composed of two parts, like Homo sapiens. Linnaeus wrote in Latin and most his names were of Latin origin, although a few were derived from Greek, like Rhinoceros for rhinos, or from other languages, like Sus babyrussa for the babirusa (from Malay).

Other people also started using Linnaeus's system, and a system of rules was developed and eventually codified into what is now called the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). In this case, therefore, there is indeed an international standard governing naming conventions. However, it does not put very strict requirements on the derivation of names: they are merely required to be in the Latin alphabet.

In practice a lot of well-known scientific names are derived from Greek. This is especially true for genus names: Tyrannosaurus, Macropus (kangaroos), Drosophila (fruit flies), Caenorhabditis (nematode worms), Peromyscus (deermice), and so on. Species names are more likely to be derived from Latin (e.g., T. rex, C. elegans, P. maniculatus, but Drosophila melanogaster is Greek again).

One interesting pattern I've noticed in mammals is that even when Linnaeus named the first genus in a group by a Latin name, usually most later names for related genera use Greek roots instead. For example, Linnaeus gave the name Mus to mice, and that is still the genus name for the house mouse, but most related genera use compounds of the Greek-derived root -mys (from μῦς), which also means "mouse." Similarly, bats for Linnaeus were Vespertilio, but there are many more compounds of the Greek root -nycteris (νυκτερίς); pigs are Sus, but compounds usually use Greek -choerus (χοῖρος) or -hys/-hyus (ὗς); weasels are Mustela but compounds usually use -gale or -galea (γαλέη); horses are Equus but compounds use -hippus (ἵππος).

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

An Ice Age Wolf Head Was Found Perfectly Preserved in Siberian Permafrost


Don’t lose your head in Siberia, or it may be found preserved thousands of years later.

A group of mammoth tusk hunters in eastern Siberia recently found an Ice Age wolf’s head—minus its body—in the region’s permafrost. Almost perfectly preserved thanks to tens of thousands of years in ice, researchers dated the specimen to the Pleistocene Epoch—a period between 1.8 million and 11,700 years ago characterized by the Ice Age. The head measures just under 16 inches long, The Siberian Times reports, which is roughly the same size as a modern gray wolf’s.

Believed to be between 2 to 4 years old around the time of its death, the wolf was found with its fur, teeth, and soft tissue still intact. Scientists said the region’s permafrost, a layer of ground that remains permanently frozen, preserved the head like a steak in a freezer. Researchers have scanned the head with a CT scanner to reveal more of its anatomy for further study.

Tori Herridge, an evolutionary biologist at London’s Natural History Museum, witnessed the head’s discovery in August 2018. She performed carbon dating on the tissue and tweeted that it was about 32,000 years old.

The announcement of the discovery was made in early June to coincide with the opening of a new museum exhibit, "The Mammoth," at Tokyo’s Miraikan National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. The exhibit features more than 40 Pleistocene specimens—including a frozen horse and a mammoth's trunk—all in mint condition, thanks to the permafrost’s effects. (It's unclear if the wolf's head is included in the show.)

While it’s great to have a zoo’s worth of prehistoric beasts on display, scientists said the number of animals emerging from permafrost is increasing for all the wrong reasons. Albert Protopopov, director of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Sakha, told CNN that the warming climate is slowly but surely thawing the permafrost. The higher the temperature, the likelier that more prehistoric specimens will be found.

And with average temperatures rising around the world, we may find more long-extinct creatures rising from the ice.