Nightmarish Cricket That Eats Anything Is Now Invading the US
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Animals and insects see the world in unique ways. From fish, to dogs, to birds to shrimp, super-eyesight allows them to thrive in places others can't.
Dung beetles, for example, have internal compasses that are sensitive to the sun, Marie Dacke of Lund University and her colleagues have determined. In a paper published in the latest Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, she and her team explain that solar cues and skylight help guide where the beetles roll their coveted balls of poop.Video: 5 Incredible Insect Superpowers
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Siberian huskies evolved colorful, almond-shaped eyes to see in low light, desolate northern regions. A quirk of genetics is that an individual dog may have two differently colored eyes. A single eye may also feature two colors. It's known as a "parti" or "split" eye.Photos: Ugliest Dog Contenders
Chameleons can rotate and focus their eyes separately to look at two different objects at the same time, according to the San Diego Zoo. This gives chameleons a full 360-degree view around their body.Photos: Chameleon Colors Act Like a Mood Ring
Ants have vision "superpowers," interactive media designers and artists Chris Woebken and Kenichi Okada believe. Using their ant apparatus, humans can see as ants do by placing microscope antennas on their hands (ants have these on their heads) that transmit a 50-fold magnified view of wherever the person's hand is resting.33 Bizarre New Ant Species Discovered
Imagine if you spent most of the day looking up from below. That is what escolar, a large and mysterious deep-sea fish, do, according to a new study by Eric Warrant of the University of Lund and colleagues. Escolar use this technique to "sit and wait" for prey, hoping something tasty will swim over them.
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Shrimps have some of the most complex visual systems in the animal kingdom. Justin Marshall of the University of Queensland and his team found that some shrimp stare down prey before attacking with a movement that is so swift that it actually boils water in front of the shrimp. (The other temperate water surrounding the shrimp prevents it from cooking itself to death!)
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Most animals, including humans, have round pupils, but the eyes of goats (toads, octopi and a few others too) tend to be horizontal and rectangular with rounded corners. This broadens the horizon that they see, enabling them to better spot predators.
Pen Waggener, Flickr
Bird eyes, such as those of the eagle seen here, feature oil droplets located in the front, Doekele Stavenga of the University of Groningen and colleagues have discovered. The droplets serve as "microlenses" that help to filter and direct light.On the Hunt for Bald Eagles
The eyes of certain animals, such as raccoons and cats, glow in the dark. Their eyes have a light-reflecting surface, known as the tapetum lucidum, which makes this possible. Depending on the animal, the glow takes on certain colors. Cats tend to have eyes that glow green. Miniature schnauzer eyes will sometimes glow turquoise, according to Colorado State University ophthalmologist Cynthia Powell.
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Cuttlefish, a type of mollusk, are the transformer visionaries of the animal kingdom. They reshape their entire eyes to adjust to what they see. Humans and many other species, in contrast, usually just reshape their eye lenses to get a better look at something.
Giant squid have the largest eyes in the world, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. At up to 10 inches in diameter, the human head-sized eyes help giant squid to see in deep water. It's believed that they can detect a moving sperm whale from 394 feet away.Giant Squid Photos
Fernando Mafra, Fotopedia
We create a mental map of our surroundings in our brain. As Michael Land of the University of Sussex explains, "To interact with objects in the world we need to know where they are, whether they are in our field of view or outside it. Objects in memory have to move in the brain as we move through the world, otherwise they would be not be in the right place."
A cricket with a voracious appetite for anything — including members of its own species — is now spreading across the eastern United States with no end to the invasion in sight.
The invader, known as the greenhouse camel cricket (Diestrammena asynamora), is described in the latest issue of the journal PeerJ.
“The good news is that camel crickets don’t bite or pose any kind of threat to humans,” Mary Jane Epps, a postdoctoral researcher at North Carolina State and lead author of the paper, said in a press release.
She was inspired to study the cricket after a colleague experienced a chance encounter with one at home. The cricket was previously known to science, but thought to be prevalent only in its native Asia. It had only been spotted in commercial greenhouses -- hence the name -- but wasn’t thought to live elsewhere in the United States.
Epps and her team conducted a public survey and discovered that the cannibalistic, eat-anything cricket is all over the eastern states.
“We don’t know what kind of impact this species has on local ecosystems though it’s possible that the greenhouse camel cricket could be driving out native camel cricket species in homes,” Epps said.
She and her team also sampled the yards of 10 homes in Raleigh, N.C. They found large numbers of greenhouse camel crickets, with higher numbers in the areas of the yards closest to homes.
Doing the research, they uncovered the possibility of yet another unusual cricket.
“There appears to be a second Asian species, Diestrammena japanica, that hasn’t been formally reported in the U.S. before, but seems to be showing up in homes in the Northeast,” Epps explained. “However, that species has only been identified based on photos. We’d love to get a physical specimen to determine whether it is D. japanica.”
While invasive species are never a good sign, the researchers urge homeowners not to panic. Although the cricket sounds like fodder for a B-movie, there could be a silver lining to its presence.
“Because they are scavengers, camel crickets may actually provide an important service in our basements or garages, eating the dead stuff that accumulates there,” said Holly Menninger, director of public science in the Your Wild Life lab at NC State and a co-author of the paper.
“We know remarkably little about these camel crickets, such as their biology or how they interact with other species,” Menninger added. “We’re interested in continuing to study them, and there’s a lot to learn.”
Photo: greenhouse camel cricket (Diestrammena asynamora). Credit: Lauren Nichols, YourWildlife.org