AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: bones

How are animal carcasses beneficial?

Studies prove that carcasses of dead animals are important for plant growth. Researcher, Dr. Roel van Klink, conducted an experiment and concluded that carrion, the decaying flesh of dead animals, is essential for many species. Since, carrion of large animals is an extremely nutrient rich, ephemeral resource. The Oostvaardersplassen Nature Reserve found that the leaving the deceased animals on the ground has had a positive effect on biodiversity. The remains attract more insects and other arthropods and increase plant growth. After five months the plants were significantly larger than usual; the biomass was five times larger and nutritional plant quality was higher than the controlled sites.

Many debates have started from this proposition to keep dead animals in nature reserves. The European legislation requires any dead animal to be removed or destroyed, unless the aim is to provide food for endangered scavengers, like vultures. However, in places like Kenya and Tanzania, the Mara River’s ecosystem relies on rotting carcasses for sustenance. The disposal of wildebeests in the river, not only feeds scavengers, but also releases nutrients (phosphorus and carbon) into the river after their body decomposes and releases algae and bacteria, which also nourishes the fish. Although many nature reserves benefit from this concept, the Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve abused their power in 2017-2018. The reserve starved 3,300 deer, horses and cattle to death. These opposing views cause controversy on whether or not decaying animals are beneficial or detrimental to the economy.

Many ecosystems rely on rotting carcasses for sustenance. In the ocean, over 60 species live off of the “whale-fall” communities. This is when a large whale dies and their body sinks to the seafloor, into a new ecosystem. Scavengers (hagfish, sleeper sharks, amphipods, etc.) in the ocean tear away large pieces of soft tissue from the whale and later, “bone-eating” worms help to digest the whale carcass. These new species, developed from the “whale-fall” communities, can last decades in the deep ocean. Unfortunately, many whales suffer from commercial whaling, which also affects the food chain for animals that eat whales. This time of mass slaughter killed off as many as ninety percent of living whales during the 18th and 19th century. Therefore, some of the first extinctions in the ocean have been from whale-fall communities.

Personally, I believe that animal carcasses are beneficial to nature and should be allowed. Though, some people abuse their power to benefit their own land, by slaughtering animals. For that reason, there should be set regulations to ensure the safety of animals so people won’t just go around killing innocent animals for their own advantage.

Have biologists discovered the new super glue?

Have you ever seen a gecko or lizard on a vertical 90 degree surface, and wondered how they are able to stick to the wall? In fact, it is not because of any type of gluey substance or sticky secretions. According to a recent article, biologists have been able to figure out exactly how a gecko can stay on a wall without slipping. Scientists have even been able to utilize this discovery and have invented “Geckskin”, a flash card sized pad that can hold up to 700 pounds on a vertical surface.

Doctoral Alfred Crosby at UMass Amherst commented that a gecko’s feet can attach and detach from a surface with ease without any residual sticky material being left over. Properties such as high capacity, reversibility, and dry adhesion that geckos use to adhere to surfaces, allow for a wider range of ideas for synthetic materials with similar traits of gecko feet. Moreover, Crosby says that Geckskin uses many of these properties to achieve a drastic result; Geckskin can hold up to 700 pounds while only being the size of an index card. This is amazing considering the fact that this small piece of synthetic material can hold up to the equivalent of seventeen 42 inch flat screen TVs on a flat vertical surface. Although having impressive adhesive ability, Geckskin can also be used a series of times without losing its overall effectiveness and stickiness.

Geckos were once thought to get their amazing adhesive properties only from microscopic hairs only their feet called setae. However, much of the gecko’s “stickiness” comes from other complexities on the foot such as specialized bones, tendons, and skin that work along with setae in order to produce those viscous properties. Geckskin combines all of these complexities to form a synthetic tendon made out of stiff fabric and a special weave in order to maximize surface area and contact. Generally, Geckskin be made relatively cheaply and can have many different uses in the home or in the work place. What uses for Geckskin can you think of?

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