Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Dastardly Scorpions that glow in the dark.

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    As if scorpions aren't horrifying enough...they glow.
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Sounds like an element used by an evil villain in a Sci/Fi book! But you don't have to travel to outer-space to see them, they're crawling around right here in the USA. 

 All you need are nerves of steel and a black light. 
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Imagine a "herd" of these coming at you in the dead of night. 

When UV light hits these creepy crawlies (including moonlight) it is converted by proteins in their exoskeletons into light of a blue hue, which is visible to the human eye.

    Some theories bandied about as to why this happens are: glowing might help scorpions find each other (their earth-tone coloring makes them otherwise difficult to spot in the desert), or they do it to dazzle prey, or the light conversion effect could act as a sunscreen. 

   Upon experimental investigation, however, none of these hypotheses hold up to scrutiny, leading some arachnologists to speculate that scorpion fluorescence has no function at all. Perhaps, they say, it's just a random act of evolution.
Image result for images professor carl kloock But "oh contraire". California State University arachnologist Carl Kloock thinks otherwise. 
    "Based on UV light levels, it may determine whether or not they should come to the surface to look for prey. Scorpions are nocturnal creatures. They abhor the heat and evaporative effects of sunlight, and it turns out they specifically avoid UV light, even that of the moon. If they are well fed they tend to be less active on a full moon."

     In 2010, Carl Kloock overexposed scorpions to UV light to use up the fluorescing chemicals in their skin (which break down as they glow). Kloock found that scorpions that could still glow stuck to a sheltered area, while the others spent more time in the open unable to sense the light.
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   Inspired by Kloock’s work, Professor Doug Gaffin decided to see just how scorpions would behave under differently colored light. The results supported the idea that they’re using their glow to respond more strongly to UV over and above what they can detect with their retinas. 

   Gaffin thinks the scorpion’s entire body, from the stinging tail to the crushing pincers, collects UV light from the environment and convert it into blue-green wavelengths. These signals could even pass to the brain via clusters of nerves that are spread throughout the animal’s body. If this idea pans out, it means that a scorpion’s glow could increase the surface area of its eyes by a thousand times. The entire scorpion would effectively be one big eye.  Back to the sci/fi theory.
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More testing is being done by both Professors Kloock and Gaffin. Until then keep that black light handy so you can see these the scary little monsters coming.
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                 Thank you Kim for the blog-post idea.