A while back I posted a little information about Amorphophallus titanum, the world's largest flower. Just a few days ago while peeking around on Ebay, I discovered (and bought!) Amorphophallus ongsakulii, which I have heard is the smallest member of the genus. It was discovered in 2004 in the Khammouane Province of Laos by Alan Galloway and Annop Ongsakul, and described to science in 2006. A. titanum requires a corm (bulb) at least 30 lbs to produce its incredible flower. And, it can only produce this flower when it isn't busy growing its enormous single leaf. A. ongsakulii, in an incredible act of rebellion, flowers with a corm less than 1 cm long and weighing less than a gram. Further bucking evolutionary tradition, this miniature Aroid creates its itty bitty non-smelly flower right alongside its single leaf. Right now mine are in dormancy until spring, but hopefully some day I'll be able to take a photo similar to:
This was a funny side note in my Acarology class, so I found a paper with an enlightening Abstract:
"It is impossible for trombidiform mites to defecate because they lack both an anus and a hind gut. Digestive residues remain in the mid-gut lumen and there are great differences in the capacity of species to transfer and store digestive residues in specific mid-gut lobes. The chigger mite species with the most precise pattern of faeces storage spontaneously ruptures the body wall in a narrowly defined region and extrudes a faeces-filled gut lobe through the rupture. This seems to be a normal function in the field and in healthy reproducing laboratory cultures and the process, named schizeckenosy, may be a secondarily evolved substitute for defecation."-Schizeckenosy: The substitute for defecation in chigger mites (Mitchell and Nadchatram 1969)
Chiggers are a parasitic life-stage of mites from the family Trombiculidae. Occasionally they infect people, causing quite the itch. The image below is an excellent representation of an animal .007 inches, less than half a millimeter, long.
Recently I watched a great TED talk by Rachel Sussman, in which she details her journey to photograph the world's oldest living organisms. As an aside, she mentioned the Immortal Jellyfish, the only species known to revert from a sexually mature individual back to the polyp stage. From Wikipedia--
"This ability to reverse the life cycle (in response to adverse conditions) is probably unique in the animal kingdom, and allows the jellyfish to bypass death, renderingTurritopsis nutricula potentially biologically immortal."
It's been about a year since I originally watched The Private Life of Plants, and now I'm watching it all over again. One of my absolute favorite scenes decribes the natural history of the Strangler Fig. Take it away Sir Attenborough:
I am an undergraduate entomology major at Cornell University, class of 2009 (now at the FLIES facility, Texas A&M). At Cornell I developed an intense interest in spiders, specifically tarantulas and their kin. My favorite classes have all been centered around the process of evolution and I enjoy thinking about life from unusual theoretical perspectives.