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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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Why Can Parrots Talk and Other Birds Can't?
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If you've ever seen a pirate movie (or had the privilege of listening to this avian-fronted metal band), you're aware that parrots have the gift of human-sounding gab. Their brains—not their beaks—might be behind the birds' ability to produce mock-human voices, the Sci Show's latest video explains below.

While parrots do have articulate tongues, they also appear to be hardwired to mimic other species, and to create new vocalizations. The only other birds that are capable of vocal learning are hummingbirds and songbirds. While examining the brains of these avians, researchers noted that their brains contain clusters of neurons, which they've dubbed song nuclei. Since other birds don't possess song nuclei, they think that these structures probably play a key role in vocal learning.

Parrots might be better at mimicry than hummingbirds and songbirds thanks to a variation in these neurons: a special shell layer that surrounds each one. Birds with larger shell regions appear to be better at imitating other creatures, although it's still unclear why.

Learn more about parrot speech below (after you're done jamming out to Hatebeak).

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paleontology
Extinct Penguin Species Was the Size of an Adult Human
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A penguin that waddled across the ice 60 million years ago would have dwarfed the king and emperor penguins of today, according to the Associated Press. As indicated by fossils recently uncovered in New Zealand, the extinct species measured 5 feet 10 inches while swimming, surpassing the height of an average adult man.

The discovery, which the authors say is the most complete skeleton of a penguin this size to date, is laid out in a study recently published in Nature Communications. When standing on land, the penguin would have measured 5 feet 3 inches, still a foot taller than today’s largest penguins at their maximum height. Researchers estimated its weight to have been about 223 pounds.

Kumimanu biceae, a name that comes from Maori words for “monster" and "bird” and the name of one researcher's mother, last walked the Earth between 56 million and 60 million years ago. That puts it among the earliest ancient penguins, which began appearing shortly after large aquatic reptiles—along with the dinosaurs—went extinct, leaving room for flightless carnivorous birds to enter the sea.

The prehistoric penguin was a giant, even compared to other penguin species of the age, but it may not have been the biggest penguin to ever live. A few years ago, paleontologists discovered 40-million-year-old fossils they claimed belonged to a penguin that was 6 feet 5 inches long from beak to tail. But that estimate was based on just a couple bones, so its actual size may have varied.

[h/t AP]

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