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The pheromone that causes locusts to swarm is revealed

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the pheromone that causes locusts to swarm is revealed

Scientists have identified a chemical compound released by locusts that causes them to swarm. 

The pheromone – a chemical produced by an animal that affects the behaviour of others of its own species – is released by the migratory locust, or Locusta migratoria.  

Called 4-vinylanisole (4VA), it is primarily released from the hind legs and is detected by the antennae of other locusts and sensed by odour receptors. 

Now the unique perfume has been identified, a synthetic version of the chemical could be developed to lure locusts into traps to be killed, scientists claim. 

Locusta migratoria is the world’s most widespread locust species, which devastates crops made for human consumption in a relentless drive to eat and reproduce. 

The UN has called recent locust swarms faced in East Africa ‘unprecedented in modern times’ and ‘a scourge of biblical proportions’.  

Record numbers of locusts have descended in devastating swarms across parts of Africa and Asia this year

Record numbers of locusts have descended in devastating swarms across parts of Africa and Asia this year

The insects can devour the same amount of food in a day as approximately 35,000 people in the region

In East Africa and Yemen alone, damages and losses could amount to as much as $8.5 billion this year, according to World Bank.  

‘In human history, locust plagues, drought and flood were considered as three major natural disasters which caused serious agricultural and economic losses all over the world,’ said research leader Le Kang at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Zoology.

‘As the most widely distributed and one of the most dangerous locust species, the migratory locust represents a serious threat to agriculture worldwide.’     

The species is found in grasslands throughout Africa, most of Eurasia south of the Taiga, the East Indies, tropical Australia, and New Zealand. 

It differs from the desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria), which inhabits dry grasslands and deserts and has been causing devastation in East Africa this year. 

Individually, locusts are not particularly harmful, but they are hugely destructive when they form swarms

Individually, locusts are not particularly harmful, but they are hugely destructive when they form swarms

Migratory locusts attack pastures and critical crops such as wheat, rice, corn, millet, barley, oats, sugarcane and sorghum. 

Swarms can include billions of locusts and span hundreds of square miles as the insects voraciously consume crops. 

The chemical insecticides currently used to suppress locust outbreaks raise concerns about human health and safety, but the identification of 4VA could inspire new methods. 

The 4VA molecule is released by gregarious migratory locusts and acts as a powerful attractant to migratory locusts. 

Locusta migratoria (pictured) is found in grasslands throughout Africa, most of Eurasia south of the taiga, the East Indies, tropical Australia, and New Zealand

Locusta migratoria (pictured) is found in grasslands throughout Africa, most of Eurasia south of the taiga, the East Indies, tropical Australia, and New Zealand

Both solitary and gregarious locusts – those that live in groups – are strongly attracted to 4VA, regardless of their age and sex. 

If four or five solitary locusts are housed together, they too begin to produce and emit the pheromone. 

This then causes swarming behaviour by attracting other locusts in the field, eventually building up a fearsome locust cloud. 

And the more that locusts flock together, the more 4VA is emitted. 

The pheromone is detected by specific sensory cells, called basiconic sensilla, which are found in the locusts’ antennae. 

Here, the molecule binds to a specific olfactory receptor, called OR35, and locusts engineered to lack this receptor are less attracted to 4VA. 

A man chases away locusts that were roosting in trees in Kenya in May. East Africa has endured a string of disasters of near-Biblical proportions in 2020

A man chases away locusts that were roosting in trees in Kenya in May. East Africa has endured a string of disasters of near-Biblical proportions in 2020

In outdoor tests on artificial turf, sticky traps baited with 4VA snared dozens of locusts released from the lab.

The flat panels, to which an adhesive substance was applied, also caught locusts when deployed in a wetland reserve near Tianjin, eastern China.  

The identification of 4VA is a promising development in finding new ways to kill the pests.  

Other than synthetic chemicals that lure locusts to their death, other potential techniques could include a chemical that would block 4VA’s effects to prevent swarming.

Locusts that have been genetically modified not to respond to 4VA could also be developed and released to establish wild non-swarming populations, although this would be ‘subject to biosecurity evaluation’, Kang said. 

Further research is needed on whether 4VA exists in other locust species such as the desert locust that currently is ravaging parts of Africa and the Middle East.

The study has been published in the journal Nature

EAST AFRICA’S CATASTROPHIC LOCUST SWARM 

The locusts are the next wave in the outbreak that threatens more than 10 million people across the region with a severe hunger crisis

The locusts are the next wave in the outbreak that threatens more than 10 million people across the region with a severe hunger crisis

East Africa faced its worst locust plague in 70 years this year. 

Since the swarm spawned on the Ethiopia-Somalia border, the pests flew a path of destruction through Kenya, Djibouti, Eritrea, Tanzania, Sudan.

Their number has ballooned into the billions which has left governments scrambling to stop them laying waste to crops. 

Around 2,000 of the desert locusts were spotted in the Eastern Equatorial state of South Sudan, the agriculture minister Onyoti Adigo said.     

 The potentially devastating effects of the grass-guzzling insects was spelled out by the country’s UN representative Meshack Malo. 

After reaching South Sudan, authorities feared the outbreak would compound starvation in the war-torn nation.

Experts have warned the main March-to-May cropping season is at risk as eggs laid along the locusts’ path are due to hatch and create a second wave of the insects in key agricultural areas. 

The locusts have travelled in swarms the size of Moscow and it has been said the only effective control is aerial spraying with pesticides.  

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Average worker gets ‘career burnout’ at age 32 – and 59% say they do MORE hours working from home

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average worker gets career burnout at age 32 and 59 say they do more hours working from home

Long hours, extra work and the feeling of having to ‘always be on’ are making people experience career burnout by an early age of 32, a new survey reveals.

Approximately 59 percent of the respondents blamed it on working long of hours, noting the increase started when they transitioned to remote employment due to coronavirus lockdowns – some have worked an extra 59 hours in five months.

Other responses include not taking enough days off, pressure to complete more tasks and just under half of the participants dealing with burnout have quit their job because of the exhaustion.

However, the survey found that those who fall in Generation Z are already worn down because of the ‘always on’ work culture.

Long hours, extra work and the feeling of having to ‘always be on’ are making people experience career burnout by an early age of 32, a new survey reveals

Long hours, extra work and the feeling of having to ‘always be on’ are making people experience career burnout by an early age of 32, a new survey reveals

The study, commissioned by The Office Group, asked 2,000 people about their feelings towards work and what factors may play into their exhaustion.

The results show that a majority are burnout – and the average is the young age of 32.

Previous research has shown that the feeling typically starts around 35 and peaks when an individual is in their 50s – but this was before millions of Americans began working from home.

The coronavirus started making its way through the US earlier this year and by April many had transitioned from the office to their homes – and the new survey reveals it has taken a toll on some.

Approximately 58 percent of the respondents blamed it on working long of hours, noting the increase started when they transitioned to remote employment due to coronavirus lockdowns – some have worked an extra 59 hours in five months

Approximately 58 percent of the respondents blamed it on working long of hours, noting the increase started when they transitioned to remote employment due to coronavirus lockdowns – some have worked an extra 59 hours in five months

Approximately 59 percent of respondents said they are putting in more hours now than before the lockdown and one in three blamed their exhaustion on the stay-at-home protocol, StudyFinds reports.

When asked to give details about why this time has been difficult, 31 percent reported feeling obligated to burn the night oil since their office is now home.

There was also 27 percent who said they miss the socializing with colleagues.

Dr. Sarah Vohra said: ‘With almost a third of people saying lockdown has brought them closer to burnout, there is no question the pandemic has greatly impacted the nation’s collective mental health.’

‘Companies must put defenses in place and guard against elements which might cause stress and anxiety, and looking forward, they must make robust changes to ensure employees are protected, particularly during times of uncertainty.’

Along with working more hours, 39 percent of respondents blamed their exhaustion on not taking enough days off and 47 percent said the feeling stems from always having to be “on” while working.

What may come a surprise to some is that just under half of the participants said they have recently quit their job because they have been battling with burnout.

What are common signs of burnout and how can you treat it? 

Burnout is a feeling of complete exhaustion and can make you withdraw from other people and develop a cynical attitude – especially towards your work. 

Burnout can cause you to delay tasks that would have once been easy. In severe cases, burnout might make it hard for you to function at all. 

When you’ve reached the point of burnout, it’s probably going to take more than a few new holes to fix the issue. You may need to take significant steps to reduce the amount of stress you’re facing and also draw on support from other people, including health professionals. 

The Beyond Blue Support Service can help point you in the right direction. For other specific ways to cope with stresses at work, check out our Heads Up website.

You can find support services and advice for healthy ways to cope with stress here

Source: Beyond Blue 

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Orphaned chimpanzees are found to face lifelong setbacks, study reveals

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orphaned chimpanzees are found to face lifelong setbacks study reveals

A new report suggests that chimpanzees who lose their mother can face lifelong setbacks.

Scientists studying chimps in Ivory Coast’s Taї National Park found that male infants who lost their mothers, even as juveniles, had fewer offspring and were less competitive as adults.

Chimpanzees are raised almost exclusively by their mothers and stay with them until they are teenagers, a rarity in the animal world. 

The researchers believe that, even when offspring are old enough to take care of basic necessities themselves, their mothers are still teaching them advanced foraging techniques and social skills necessary to thrive.

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A new study suggests orphaned chimpanzees face lifelong setbacks, even if they were juveniles when they lost their mothers. Researchers believe chimps learn advanced foraging techniques and social skills well into their teen years

A new study suggests orphaned chimpanzees face lifelong setbacks, even if they were juveniles when they lost their mothers. Researchers believe chimps learn advanced foraging techniques and social skills well into their teen years

A new study suggests orphaned chimpanzees face lifelong setbacks, even if they were juveniles when they lost their mothers. Researchers believe chimps learn advanced foraging techniques and social skills well into their teen years

A team with the Taï Chimpanzee Project and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology kept full demographic records and collected fecal samples to determine paternity on members of three distinct communities for more than 30 years.

They found that male orphans still failed to thrive even if they lost their mother when they were juveniles.

The team, whose work was published in Science Advances, believe mother chimps teach their young valuable lessons into adolescence. 

They may know where to find the best food, said lead author Catherine Crockford, ‘and how to use tools to extract hidden and very nutritious foods, like insects, honey and nuts.’ 

Studying several communities of chimps in Ivory Coast's Taї National Park for more than 30 years, the scientists found that male orphans had fewer offspring and were less competitive as adults

Studying several communities of chimps in Ivory Coast's Taї National Park for more than 30 years, the scientists found that male orphans had fewer offspring and were less competitive as adults

Studying several communities of chimps in Ivory Coast’s Taї National Park for more than 30 years, the scientists found that male orphans had fewer offspring and were less competitive as adults

Access to more nutritious food may be why chimps and other great apes have relatively larger brains than other primates. 

WHO’S SMARTER, A CHILD OR A CHIMP? 

Most children surpass the intelligence levels of chimpanzees before they reach four years old.

A study conducted by Australian researchers in June 2017 tested children for foresight, which is said to distinguish humans from animals.

The experiment saw researchers drop a grape through the top of a vertical plastic Y-tube.

They then monitored the reactions of a child and chimpanzee in their efforts to grab the grape at the other end, before it hit the floor.

Because there were two possible ways the grape could exit the pipe, researchers looked at the strategies the children and chimpanzees used to predict where the grape would go.

The apes and the two-year-olds only covered a single hole with their hands when tested.

But by four years of age, the children had developed to a level where they knew how to forecast the outcome.

They covered the holes with both hands, catching whatever was dropped through every time.

 

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‘Offspring gradually learn these skills through their infant and juvenile years,’ Crockford said.

‘We can speculate that one reason offspring continue to travel and feed close to their mothers every day until they are teenagers, is that watching their mothers helps them to learn.’

Co-author Roman Wittig speculates mothers might be passing on social skills rather than survival tips.

‘Again a bit like humans, chimpanzees live in a complex social world of alliances and competition. It might be that they learn through watching their mothers when to build alliances and when to fight.’

There is good news for orphaned chimps, though.

In January another study from the Planck Institute found more than a dozen orphaned chimpanzees in the Tai Forest had been adopted by unrelated members of their community.

Both males and females devoted large amounts of time and resources to protecting the young, seemingly in a show of chimpanzee altruism.

‘Some adoptions of orphans by unrelated adults lasted for years and imply extensive care towards the orphans,’ Planck Institute researcher Christophe Boesch told Live Science

‘This includes being permanently associated with the orphan, waiting for it during travel, providing protection in conflicts and sharing food with the orphan.’

Boesch said he was particularly surprised to see males involved in rearing the adopted infants, since parenting is the purview of females.

‘Some of these adult males go really far in adopting a motherly role, carrying the baby on their back, sharing a nest, helping babies to climb trees, really caring a lot.’

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Coronavirus: Alarming video reveals virus-laden particles created by singing

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coronavirus alarming video reveals virus laden particles created by singing

Researchers in Australia believe singing, especially in a choir, could spread coronavirus via airborne droplets. 

The findings come from a slow-motion video with special LED lighting which shows how otherwise invisible particles shoot from the mouth of a singer. 

During an experiment, a person was asked to sing a popular scale and some sounds, such as ‘do’, ‘fa’ and ‘ti’, forced particles out at up to six metres a second (13 mph). 

More than half of droplets produced by coughing travel at this speed, or faster, while only 15 per cent of particles created by talking travel at this pace.   

Researchers suggest that extra precautions should be taken to mitigate against the extra dangers posed by group singing. 

This includes rehearsals with fewer people, wearing face coverings while singing and extreme social distancing.

During an experiment, a person was asked to sing a popular scale and some sounds, such as ‘do’, ‘fa’ and ‘ti’, forced particles out at up to six metres a second (13 mph)

During an experiment, a person was asked to sing a popular scale and some sounds, such as ‘do’, ‘fa’ and ‘ti’, forced particles out at up to six metres a second (13 mph)

During an experiment, a person was asked to sing a popular scale and some sounds, such as ‘do’, ‘fa’ and ‘ti’, forced particles out at up to six metres a second (13 mph) 

A recent piece of research found the amount of particles produced is the same, but did not account for speed. 

This finding led researchers to believe singing was just as risky as talking, but the new research indicates singing poses extra risks. 

For example, the quantity of particles produced when singing could saturate the air inside a room, making social distancing pointless. 

A study from the university of New South Wales, Sydney, found the majority of particles produced during singing travel at less than 0.5 m/s.

However, they are spewed in all directions and are likely to not settle and drift on air currents. 

In a room with air conditioning or a fan this would see the infectious particles stay airborne for long periods of time, travelling vast distances.  

For the study, the singer remained at a relatively subdued sound range of between 66 and 72 decibels.

Singing in a choir has been heavily linked to previous superspreader events. Outbreaks at choirs in Berlin, Amsterdam and Washington were so severe that 75.6 per cent, 78.5 per cent and 86.9 per cent of people in attendance tested positive for COVID-19, respectively (stock)

Singing in a choir has been heavily linked to previous superspreader events. Outbreaks at choirs in Berlin, Amsterdam and Washington were so severe that 75.6 per cent, 78.5 per cent and 86.9 per cent of people in attendance tested positive for COVID-19, respectively (stock)

Singing in a choir has been heavily linked to previous superspreader events. Outbreaks at choirs in Berlin, Amsterdam and Washington were so severe that 75.6 per cent, 78.5 per cent and 86.9 per cent of people in attendance tested positive for COVID-19, respectively (stock)

Researchers in Australia believe singing, especially in a choir, could spread coronavirus via airborne droplets. The findings come from a slow-motion video with LED lighting which shows how invisible particles shoot from the mouth of a singer (pictured, diagram of the set-up)

Researchers in Australia believe singing, especially in a choir, could spread coronavirus via airborne droplets. The findings come from a slow-motion video with LED lighting which shows how invisible particles shoot from the mouth of a singer (pictured, diagram of the set-up)

Researchers in Australia believe singing, especially in a choir, could spread coronavirus via airborne droplets. The findings come from a slow-motion video with LED lighting which shows how invisible particles shoot from the mouth of a singer (pictured, diagram of the set-up)

‘It is also worth noting that some degree of variability is expected in the number of droplets expelled between different individuals, and due to other parameters, such as loudness, notes, consonants, and duration of each note sung,’ the researchers say in the study, published today in Journal of Infectious Diseases. 

Singing in a choir has been heavily linked to previous superspreader events. 

Outbreaks at choirs in Berlin, Amsterdam and Washington were so severe that 75.6 per cent, 78.5 per cent and 86.9 per cent of people in attendance tested positive for COVID-19, respectively.  

‘The data presented combined with high infection rate among the choir members points towards the possibility of airborne spread of COVID-19 during singing events,’ the researchers write.  

The study is the latest in a string of scientific papers investigating the danger singing poses in regard to the transmission of Covid-19.

Researchers at Lund University, Sweden studied the amount of particles emitted when we sing and found loud and consonant-rich tunes, such as Happy Birthday, spread a lot droplets into the surrounding air.  

SAGE WARNED GOVERNMENT ABOUT SINGING DURING CRISIS 

The Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) earmarked live musical performances and choirs were one of the more risky events for Covid.

This was why music venues, indoor theatres and concerts were the very last amenities to reopen following lockdown.

In a report submitted sometime in June, SAGE said it had reviewed a number of international studies and found evidence to suggest that singing can produce more aerosols, or droplet nuclei, than normal talking or breathing.

Covid-19 is spread through respiratory secretions, which can take the form of large droplets or smaller aerosols.

These are either inhaled directly or transferred by the hands from surfaces where they have been deposited.

The document says that the smaller the particle, the further it can advance into the respiratory tract.

The authors said: ‘There exists some evidence to suggest that singing can produce more aerosols than normal talking or breathing; it may be more akin to a cough.

‘Singing for any appreciable amount of time therefore may present a risk for the creation of infectious aerosols and allow for infection transmission.’ 

The authors added: ”Therefore, at the present time the safest way for groups to sing together is to i) sing outside, ii) use the 2m rule to socially distance and iii) avoid face-to-face positioning.’

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