Nightmare Fuel: Botflies hijack mosquitoes to lay maggots under your skin.

I wish today’s creature and the title was a bad joke.

Unfortunately this is no joke- The Human Botfly (Dermatobia hominis) slaps eggs onto a mosquito, when that mosquito bites you, those eggs are implanted under your skin. Over the next 5-12 weeks, a maggot grows under your skin causing painful leaking pustules until it crawls out of your skin and into the next stage of development as a pupae. Sickening.

Advertisements

This fly is a part of a family known as Oestridae or Botflies, the larvae of all Botfly species parasitize mammals. Honestly, one of these flies is too many – but to know there are approximately 150 species of Botfly is frankly terrifying. They are found world-wide but the Human Botfly is primarily in the regions found below.

By Cfugate23 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17455271
Advertisements

Icing on the horror cake shown below – the maggots have backwards facing spikes, designed to make them difficult and painful to remove.

 

Should you be so unlucky to need it, the most commonly used method of removal is  to apply petroleum jelly, glue or nail polish to cover the hole preventing the literal pus-eating worm from breathing. Showing that vaseline can cure everything from ashy hands to hell-spawn growing under your skin.

 

This bite can occur anywhere a mosquito can bite you, so if it is in a sensitive or hard to reach area then please seek a medical professional to apply iodine and remove the fly via tweezer. Be careful if you are removing one yourself, rupturing certain Botfly species can induce anaphalactic shock.

Advertisements

Despite knowing that these flies are not widespread in my region, every time a mosquito bites me, a tiny voice wonders, “Is today the day that I wind up with maggots under my skin?” Now, a small bit of that terror will go with you 😉.

Botfly maggot removal via tweezer

Nightmare Fuel: The Bobbit Worm

Lurking in the watery depths lies a worm spun from pure nightmare fuel- the Bobbit worm.

Filmed by Khaled Sultani- Check out their other videos!
Eunice aphroditois

Mrs. Scary-Face is a predator who feeds on anything she can catch, using her long sensory antennae to determine when prey is nearby. The jaws are held back until the right moment when they snap shut on unsuspecting prey. These creatures can vary in length, from a few inches to 10 feet long!  Bobbit worms are distributed worldwide but mainly found within the Indo-Pacific ocean. These creatures produce sexually, with both male and female ejaculating sperm and eggs respectively into the water and letting the ocean current do the rest. The next time you are swimming on those white sandy beaches, remember that a very tiny percentage of that crystal clear water is- “Bobbit sex water”.

Advertisements

Research related to Bobbit worms has found interesting predator-prey behaviors, where fish will actually gang up and blow water jets on the Bobbit worms to cover the Bobbit hole with sand and silt and force the monster  Bobbit to retreat.  The research on Bobbit worms is not widespread, a discredit to us all, as this fascinating predator is assuredly hiding some scientific secrets.

To support marine biology research check out the links below:

 

 

Don’t forget to subscribe to our platform to receive notifications of our latest intriguing science news and media! Also, join and ‘like’ our Facebook group at: https://m.facebook.com/sciencelionmedia/?ref=bookmarks

Sour Milk: Caucasian Calcium Standards

For decades, the United States Dietary Association (USDA) and its subsidiaries have advocated for us to acquire our daily vitamin D and calcium requirements, in large part through dairy consumption. As an appropriate prelude to this article, check out ‘Milk, an udder mistake?’, for more background on food policy recommendations regarding dairy consumption. In any case, it’s safe to say that dairy products have become a staple food group in most of our lives, whether it’s cheese, ice cream, a bowl of cereal, or a plethora of other milk-based products.

A picture containing person, wall, indoor, woman

Description automatically generated

With dairy products contributing to a significant portion of our daily calcium and vitamin D intake, that leaves a large proportion of American society in a conundrum of either having to deal with the inconvenient symptoms of lactose intolerance or consume fewer dairy products. 

With this seemingly binary decision, a public health concern arises regarding Hispanics and African-Americans being deficient in their acquisition of calcium and vitamin D. One solution to address deficiencies such as these has been to revise the WIC food packages by amending the eligible food items to accommodate better micronutrient supplementation. Although most WIC recipients are of Caucasian descent, Hispanics and African-Americans as a combined group make up the majority of program participants. So, the aim is to help provide this lower-income subset within these respective demographics with better food options. 

However, there seems to be an interesting paradox that has been uncovered by the research community over the last 20 years. Although African-Americans and Hispanics are historically recognized as deficient consumers of dairy with the lowest associated intake of calcium and vitamin D, it is known that these groups are still less predisposed to developing osteoporosis, versus Caucasians. 

A picture containing indoor

Description automatically generated

Although recommendations currently call for serum vitamin D levels (vitamin D circulating in the blood) between 20 and 50 ng/ml, black women actually displayed a lower hip fracture risk when they had less than the minimum recommended serum concentration; higher levels correlated with greater fracture risk. 

Advertisements

Even more, there are correlations that infer a possible association between excess calcium intake for African American men and their alarming rate of U.S. metastatic prostate cancer diagnoses and deaths. Compared to their Caucasian counterparts, African-American men have a 50% higher risk of developing prostate cancer and are twice as likely to die from the disease after diagnosis.

Within this compilation of most recent studies, there are a couple schools of thought that experience some overlap. This includes those that are against lactose consumption (dairy) but comply with current calcium and vitamin D intake guidelines via non-dairy sources, and then there are those that are both against dairy and advocate for lower daily recommendations of the respective micronutrients. 

A person posing for the camera

Description automatically generated

For instance, one study showed that a low-lactose, high-calcium, high-vitamin D diet favors a reduced risk of ovarian cancer in African-American women. The interpretation of this study’s results drew controversy, not so much for the suggestion that less dairy may be better, but for the maintenance of the high-calcium mantra.

One of the critics, Dr. Constance Hilliard, has a unique perspective that blends a historian background with a clinical research context, and she has deduced that many people of African-American descent have been evolutionarily and epigenetically adapted to thrive on a low-calcium, low-sodium diet, among other divergent aspects of their when compared to the U.S. dietary guidelines. 

A person smiling for the camera

Description automatically generated
Dr. Constance Hilliard

This adaptation was acquired in West Africa before any appreciable movement of African populations to the western world, such as the trans-Atlantic slave trade (1500s-1800s) or before any pre-colonial, sea-faring expeditions by West African kingdoms (i.e. Mali Kingdom, led by Mansa Abu Bakari II, during the early 1300s). In Western Africa there has been a prevalence of Tsetse flies that have inhibited the sustenance of cattle grazing in this region, leading to calcium being sourced elsewhere, and in less abundance. According to Dr. Hilliard, these populations lived healthily on 200-400mg/day of calcium vs the 1000-1200mg/day U.S. recommendation.

Advertisements

More specifically, this evolutionary pressure selected for a unique variant of TRPV6, a calcium channel responsible for dietary uptake of calcium. This channel variant is hypersensitive to calcium, requiring less than other variants which manifest in European haplotypes, for example. Dr. Hilliard suspects that the surplus of calcium in our diet due to guidelines that are set for Europeans and European-descendants, may be one of the major culprits behind the disparate prevalence of certain metastatic cancers, as this excess calcium may essentially be toxic to African Americans and other African-descended peoples.

Dr. Milton Mills

Another proponent of reducing dairy intake is Dr. Milton Mills, who has not only partaken in impassioned reviews and rebuttals regarding the seemingly misleading dietary guidelines but has also confronted the National Food board about the inherent racism that has manifested itself in the representation of the board, and subsequently in the health policies passed down to the public.

Dr. Mills, who also is a staunch advocate for veganism, has noted as a practicing physician that a wide variety of his patients’ symptoms which could normally be attributed to any number of disorders or diseases, have been alleviated by simply recommending removal of dairy from their diets. Depending on whether these patients are equally replacing the dairy with non-dairy supplementation would also provide more insight as to whether their positive response was solely attributed to reduced lactose intake or in conjunction with reduced calcium in their diets, as well.

Based on these findings, there seems to be growing evidence that our national dietary recommendations may need more diversification to fit the melting pot of America that this country has become. It is a sad prospect to suspect that consumers in their own best interest may be following guidelines that unbeknownst to them may have unintended consequences.  If you are interested in exploring non-dairy options to acquire your calcium and vitamin D necessities, be sure to reference this article for more information and sources.

If you found this article informative please hit the ‘like’ button below, and don’t forget to subscribe to our platform for the latest intriguing science news and media!

Sour Milk- Caucasian Calcium Standards

For decades, the United States Dietary Association (USDA) and its subsidiaries have advocated for us to acquire our daily vitamin D and calcium requirements, in large part through dairy consumption. As an appropriate prelude to this article, check out ‘Milk, an udder mistake?’, for more background on food policy recommendations regarding dairy consumption. In any case, it’s safe to say that dairy products have become a staple food group in most of our lives, whether it’s cheese, ice cream, a bowl of cereal, or a plethora of other milk-based products.

A picture containing person, wall, indoor, woman

Description automatically generated

With dairy products contributing to a significant portion of our daily calcium and vitamin D intake, that leaves a large proportion of American society in a conundrum of either having to deal with the inconvenient symptoms of lactose intolerance or consume fewer dairy products. 

With this seemingly binary decision, a public health concern arises regarding Hispanics and African-Americans being deficient in their acquisition of calcium and vitamin D. One solution to address deficiencies such as these has been to revise the WIC food packages by amending the eligible food items to accommodate better micronutrient supplementation. Although most WIC recipients are of Caucasian descent, Hispanics and African-Americans as a combined group make up the majority of program participants. So, the aim is to help provide this lower-income subset within these respective demographics with better food options. 

However, there seems to be an interesting paradox that has been uncovered by the research community over the last 20 years. Although African-Americans and Hispanics are historically recognized as deficient consumers of dairy with the lowest associated intake of calcium and vitamin D, it is known that these groups are still less predisposed to developing osteoporosis, versus Caucasians. 

A picture containing indoor

Description automatically generated

Although recommendations currently call for serum vitamin D levels (vitamin D circulating in the blood) between 20 and 50 ng/ml, black women actually displayed a lower hip fracture risk when they had less than the minimum recommended serum concentration; higher levels correlated with greater fracture risk. 

Advertisements

Even more, there are correlations that infer a possible association between excess calcium intake for African American men and their alarming rate of U.S. metastatic prostate cancer diagnoses and deaths. Compared to their Caucasian counterparts, African-American men have a 50% higher risk of developing prostate cancer and are twice as likely to die from the disease after diagnosis.

Within this compilation of most recent studies, there are a couple schools of thought that experience some overlap. This includes those that are against lactose consumption (dairy) but comply with current calcium and vitamin D intake guidelines via non-dairy sources, and then there are those that are both against dairy and advocate for lower daily recommendations of the respective micronutrients. 

A person posing for the camera

Description automatically generated

For instance, one study showed that a low-lactose, high-calcium, high-vitamin D diet favors a reduced risk of ovarian cancer in African-American women. The interpretation of this study’s results drew controversy, not so much for the suggestion that less dairy may be better, but for the maintenance of the high-calcium mantra.

One of the critics, Dr. Constance Hilliard, has a unique perspective that blends a historian background with a clinical research context, and she has deduced that many people of African-American descent have been evolutionarily and epigenetically adapted to thrive on a low-calcium, low-sodium diet, among other divergent aspects of their when compared to the U.S. dietary guidelines. 

A person smiling for the camera

Description automatically generated
Dr. Constance Hilliard

This adaptation was acquired in West Africa before any appreciable movement of African populations to the western world, such as the trans-Atlantic slave trade (1500s-1800s) or before any pre-colonial, sea-faring expeditions by West African kingdoms (i.e. Mali Kingdom, led by Mansa Abu Bakari II, during the early 1300s). In Western Africa there has been a prevalence of Tsetse flies that have inhibited the sustenance of cattle grazing in this region, leading to calcium being sourced elsewhere, and in less abundance. According to Dr. Hilliard, these populations lived healthily on 200-400mg/day of calcium vs the 1000-1200mg/day U.S. recommendation.

Advertisements

More specifically, this evolutionary pressure selected for a unique variant of TRPV6, a calcium channel responsible for dietary uptake of calcium. This channel variant is hypersensitive to calcium, requiring less than other variants which manifest in European haplotypes, for example. Dr. Hilliard suspects that the surplus of calcium in our diet due to guidelines that are set for Europeans and European-descendants, may be one of the major culprits behind the disparate prevalence of certain metastatic cancers, as this excess calcium may essentially be toxic to African Americans and other African-descended peoples.

Dr. Milton Mills

Another proponent of reducing dairy intake is Dr. Milton Mills, who has not only partaken in impassioned reviews and rebuttals regarding the seemingly misleading dietary guidelines but has also confronted the National Food board about the inherent racism that has manifested itself in the representation of the board, and subsequently in the health policies passed down to the public.

Dr. Mills, who also is a staunch advocate for veganism, has noted as a practicing physician that a wide variety of his patients’ symptoms which could normally be attributed to any number of disorders or diseases, have been alleviated by simply recommending removal of dairy from their diets. Depending on whether these patients are equally replacing the dairy with non-dairy supplementation would also provide more insight as to whether their positive response was solely attributed to reduced lactose intake or in conjunction with reduced calcium in their diets, as well.

Based on these findings, there seems to be growing evidence that our national dietary recommendations may need more diversification to fit the melting pot of America that this country has become. It is a sad prospect to suspect that consumers in their own best interest may be following guidelines that unbeknownst to them may have unintended consequences.  If you are interested in exploring non-dairy options to acquire your calcium and vitamin D necessities, be sure to reference this article for more information and sources.

If you found this article informative please hit the ‘like’ button below, and don’t forget to subscribe to our platform for the latest intriguing science news and media!

Our Silent Skies: 3.1 Billion Birds Lost

Birds of today must contend with new and dangerous challenges: air pollution, wind turbines, skyscrapers, airplanes, and unprecedented levels of habitat loss. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was a blaring alarm that reckless use of pesticides is killing our environment, and yet this alarm has been largely ignored. Since 1970, 3.1 billion birds have been lost. This is according to a recent report in Science, which details how humanity has largely failed to protect so many different avian species. 

Birds that reside in the grasslands have been hit the hardest, potentially due to the effect of increasing agriculture in the fertile grasslands of the West. The land is cleared, tilled, and sprayed with herbicides and pesticides, draining the earth of insect life that is beneficial to the crops, subsequently starving the birds to death. The scientists in this study have found 74% of the grassland bird species are declining, and 700 million individuals have been lost. Solutions are needed, or we risk wiping the skies free of our feathered friends. 

Advertisements

Doing the bare minimum by banning one or two chemicals is not enough to tip the scales. Humanity needs to hold up a mirror to itself and decide — do we truly wish to be alone on this planet with only our livestock and “conventional” pets as our companions? The biodiversity of the earth is a vibrant and important resource for science, medicine, education and our understanding of ourselves. We need to fund research into this field to delineate the best policies that can help our system. Policies to protect biodiversity should not be dismantled by a few close-minded individuals. We constantly use hashtags: #savethebees, #savethefrogs, #savethebirds, #savetheamazon, but if we don’t get serious soon, the next hashtag will be #saveus.

 

Don’t forget to subscribe to our platform to receive notifications of our latest intriguing science news and media! Also, join and ‘like’ our Facebook group!

Our Silent Skies- 3.1 Billion Birds Lost

Birds of today must contend with new and dangerous challenges: air pollution, wind turbines, skyscrapers, airplanes, and unprecedented levels of habitat loss. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was a blaring alarm that reckless use of pesticides is killing our environment, and yet this alarm has been largely ignored. Since 1970, 3.2 billion birds have been lost. This is according to a recent report in Science, which details how humanity has largely failed to protect so many different avian species. 

Birds that reside in the grasslands have been hit the hardest, potentially due to the effect of increasing agriculture in the fertile grasslands of the West. The land is cleared, tilled, and sprayed with herbicides and pesticides, draining the earth of insect life that is beneficial to the crops, subsequently starving the birds to death. The scientists in this study have found 74% of the grassland bird species are declining, and 700 million individuals have been lost. Solutions are needed, or we risk wiping the skies free of our feathered friends. 

Advertisements

Doing the bare minimum by banning one or two chemicals is not enough to tip the scales. Humanity needs to hold up a mirror to itself and decide — do we truly wish to be alone on this planet with only our livestock and “conventional” pets as our companions? The biodiversity of the earth is a vibrant and important resource for science, medicine, education and our understanding of ourselves. We need to fund research into this field to delineate the best policies that can help our system. Policies to protect biodiversity should not be dismantled by a few close-minded individuals. We constantly use hashtags: #savethebees, #savethefrogs, #savethebirds, #savetheamazon, but if we don’t get serious soon, the next hashtag will be #saveus.

If you found this article informative please hit the ‘like’ button below, and don’t forget to subscribe to our platform for the latest intriguing science news and media!

Red Pen Stigma

Remember when you were a kid, and it was time to get your exam back? This was a much anticipated event in my life as a younger student. I always wanted to see less red ink on my paper, meaning I did well on my assignment, quiz, or test. I hated the negative emotions I felt when my paper was slashed with red writing. I felt like a failure, but it also pushed me to do better the next time. The red ink-induced feeling that arose in me was confirmed by a study showing teachers that grade with red pen versus blue pen can not only upset students, but disrupt student learning and investment in the course. 

Advertisements

Another study in 2008 published in the European Journal of Social Psychology  suggested that teachers grading in red pen tend to identify even more issues on student assignments, marking them negatively compared to grading in blue ink. Thus, even picking up a red pen compared to another color can lead to more negative marks. Before teaching my first classroom of students in 2011, I had already learned about the implications of pen color when grading. My favorite pens to grade with became the assorted Paper Mate Flair pens. I rarely ever used red pen and honestly only did so when I lost the other ones, which occurred once or twice. 

So what are your thoughts? Ban red pens or keep them? Tell me your views on it. 

Check out these other articles regarding the effects of colors on performance:

Blue or Red? Exploring the Effect of Color on Cognitive Task Performances

Advertisements

Colors May Affect Performance, Study Suggests

Advertisements

Effect of Colors: Blue Boosts Creativity, While Red Enhances Attention to Detail

If you found this article informative please hit the ‘like’ button below, and don’t forget to subscribe to our platform for the latest intriguing science news and media!

Making Physical Science in the Classroom Suck Less

As a teacher for four years, I became acquainted with hearing, “Ms. Hunter, I don’t like science,” or “This is too hard.” It seemed the 8th-grade students I taught were not interested in engaging with science at all. Little kids have a natural curiosity about the world around them, yet it seemed by the time these students arrived to my 8th-grade classroom this same curiosity was stifled.

What made things even more complicated for me was the curriculum I was responsible for teaching students — physical science. This, of course, came a year after students were in life science. Life science relates to their bodies, and as teenagers, this was definitely more appealing to them compared to chemistry and physics. I always heard students ask why they couldn’t dissect something, an option they didn’t receive in the life science course. It is always more entertaining for teenagers to learn about why hair is growing and bodies are changing than the chemical bonds of water. 

To get the students invested, I used my foodie background and appealed to their stomachs! We had an ice cream lab that explored the conversion of a liquid to a solid. We even ate popcorn with butter we generated by converting heavy cream into whipped butter by shaking a canister. I taught them about physical and chemical changes by cutting potatoes, adding hydrogen peroxide to a grape, and mixing baking soda and vinegar. The simplest, easiest activities were the most exciting for them to do. 

For the physics portion of the class, we did Bungee Barbie, created balloon balls, engaged in Newton’s Laws of Motion kickball, and ran outside on the track to evaluate speed and velocity. The best part about it was we did all of these activities on a dollar-store budget.

Whether it is the food they ate, or Barbie being dropped from various heights, I hope they remember some of the cool science they learned. Either way, I loved teaching physical science in creative, engaging ways and ultimately I feel my students left with learning more about science, hating it a little less, and realizing how science ties into their everyday lives. 

For the lesson plans of the activities mentioned in this post, feel free to contact me.


If you found this article informative please hit the ‘like’ button below, and don’t forget to subscribe to our platform for the latest intriguing science news and media!