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Piotr Naskrecki via Vimeo
Piotr Naskrecki via Vimeo

Watch this Guy Serve as an Incubator for Bot Flies

Piotr Naskrecki via Vimeo
Piotr Naskrecki via Vimeo

Confession: I'm kind of obsessed with bot flies. In fact, I've probably watched every single bot fly larvae removal video on YouTube. So I was obviously predisposed to enjoy this short documentary by entomologist Piotr Naskrecki, who became host to three human bot fly (Dermatobia hominis) larvae after he traveled to Belize last year. But even if you're not obsessed, the short documentary that came out of his experience is a fascinating look at the fly's life cycle. (If you're squeamish, though, it's best to heed the warning!)

Naskrecki removed one bot fly larva from his hand because it was painful, but because he had never seen an adult bot fly, he decided to let the other two live, mature, and emerge from his skin. "I figured that being a male, this was my only chance to produce another living, breathing being out of my flesh and blood," he says in the video.

The human bot fly's life cycle works like this: Adults have just a few days to mate, and after that, a female will catch a mosquito, lay her eggs on it, and set it free. When the mosquito lands on a human to feed, the person's body heat causes the eggs to hatch, and the larvae drop onto the skin, taking up residence in the skin for two months. Then they head to the soil to pupate and, after awhile, a grown bot fly will emerge.

It took just about 40 minutes for the larvae to emerge from Naskrecki's skin—which wasn't really painful, he explains, because the larvae actually create a painkiller so that they can escape unnoticed. "In fact, I probably would not have noticed it if I hadn't been waiting for it," he says. The holes in his skin healed in 48 hours; the bot fly didn't emerge from its puparium for more than a month and a half.

"Raising two dipteran children was an interesting experience," Naskrecki writes on his Vimeo page. "It was embarrassing on a few occasions, when both of my arms started bleeding profusely in public; painful at times, to the point of waking me up in the middle of the night; and inconvenient during the last stages of the flies’ development, when I had to tape plastic containers to my arms to make sure that I will not lose the emerging larvae. But other than those minor discomforts it was really not a big deal. ... [It] also made me ponder once again the perplexing element of the human psyche that makes us abhor parasites but revere predators. Why is it that an animal that is actively trying to kill us, such as a lion, gets more respect than one that is only trying to nibble on us a little, without causing much harm?"

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Animals
Where Do Birds Get Their Songs?
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iStock

Birds display some of the most impressive vocal abilities in the animal kingdom. They can be heard across great distances, mimic human speech, and even sing using distinct dialects and syntax. The most complex songs take some practice to learn, but as TED-Ed explains, the urge to sing is woven into songbirds' DNA.

Like humans, baby birds learn to communicate from their parents. Adult zebra finches will even speak in the equivalent of "baby talk" when teaching chicks their songs. After hearing the same expressions repeated so many times and trying them out firsthand, the offspring are able to use the same songs as adults.

But nurture isn't the only factor driving this behavior. Even when they grow up without any parents teaching them how to vocalize, birds will start singing on their own. These innate songs are less refined than the ones that are taught, but when they're passed down through multiple generations and shaped over time, they start to sound similar to the learned songs sung by other members of their species.

This suggests that the drive to sing as well as the specific structures of the songs themselves have been ingrained in the animals' genetic code by evolution. You can watch the full story from TED-Ed below, then head over here for a sample of the diverse songs produced by birds.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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Animals
Watch the First-Ever Footage of a Baby Dumbo Octopus
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dumbo octopuses are named for the elephant-ear-like fins they use to navigate the deep sea, but until recently, when and how they developed those floppy appendages were a mystery. Now, for the first time, researchers have caught a newborn Dumbo octopus on tape. As reported in the journal Current Biology, they discovered that the creatures are equipped with the fins from the moment they hatch.

Study co-author Tim Shank, a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, spotted the octopus in 2005. During a research expedition in the North Atlantic, one of the remotely operated vehicles he was working with collected several coral branches with something strange attached to them. It looked like a bunch of sandy-colored golf balls at first, but then he realized it was an egg sac.

He and his fellow researchers eventually classified the hatchling that emerged as a member of the genus Grimpoteuthis. In other words, it was a Dumbo octopus, though they couldn't determine the exact species. But you wouldn't need a biology degree to spot its resemblance to Disney's famous elephant, as you can see in the video below.

The octopus hatched with a set of functional fins that allowed it to swim around and hunt right away, and an MRI scan revealed fully-developed internal organs and a complex nervous system. As the researchers wrote in their study, Dumbo octopuses enter the world as "competent juveniles" ready to jump straight into adult life.

Grimpoteuthis spends its life in the deep ocean, which makes it difficult to study. Scientists hope the newly-reported findings will make it easier to identify Grimpoteuthis eggs and hatchlings for future research.

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