biologe

Blog and online journal with editorial content about science, art and nature.

Locomotion behavior of Schizomida (Arachnida)

They look without magnification more like very motile and fast running ants or very tiny grasshoppers than like arachnids. But they indeed represent relatives of the web spiders and scorpions: Schizomida, a clade of whip scorpions. They are the sister taxon of Thelyphonida, the rather well known „big whip scorpions“, which are often kept as pets in terraria around the world. Schizomida are only rarely filmed in a higher resolution quality, which is due to their small size and their almost invisibility due to their semi-transparent cuticle and their very fast way of walking or even jumping. They are additionally difficult to be filmed as they strictly avoid all lights and tend to dry out quickly, when they cannot hide themselves by time in a slightly moist substrate.

 

Closeups of behaviors of a Schizomid species from a greenhouse in Germany. Copyrights Stefan F. Wirth

 

Schizomida in Greenhouses

 

Schizomids represent mostly tropical or subtropical organisms. But some species are regularly dispersed into greenhouses around the world. The filmed species might be Stenochrus portoricensis, but was not systematically studied in detail so far. As all known species, which appear in greenhouses, also S. portoricensis reproduces (apart from their original habitats) parthenogenetically with females producing females without mating procedures (thelytoky). I never found males so far.

 

 S. portoricensis: native to subtropical Zones

 

The specimens, which I kept since months in a small terrarium, were collected in autumn 2016 at the famous fun and wellness bath „Tropical Islands“ South of Berlin. There they are a natural part of the world’s biggest indoor rainforest. The species S. portoricensis is originally native to Florida, Mexico, Cuba, Nicaragua, Porto Rico and other localities in similar tropical zones. These microscopical tiny organisms are predators and do not harm human beings at all. According to the available organisms in a suitable size in my terrarium, they might feed on the numerous collembolans and/or mites. Especially mites of the Gamasina appear in greater numbers in my substrate, which represents the original substrate from the greenhouse. I enriched this substrate regularly by smaller pieces of fruits or vegetables to stimulate the growth of microorganisms. I keep them at room temperature (about 20°C) and with not too much moisture. I do not know, whether they reproduced within these months, but the specimens of my recent video footage represent all sub-adults.

 

Film set and topic locomotion

 

Focus of my film is to present the different ways of locomotion, cleaning behaviors and burrowing activities of these fascinating animals. During the filming procedure, I used two cold-light-lamps for a suitable illumination and an ILCE-6300 (internal 4K mode), connected to a stereomicroscope and a lightmicroscope (with uplight).

 

Berlin December 2019/ March 2017, Copyrights Stefan F. Wirth

Impeachment, low-carb diet and sexy cities, buzzwords in a modern hipster world: a grotesque and purely fictional short story

This short story is entirely fictional. But it is inspired by many different conversations I had, both: with male and female conversation partners.

Restaurant

I am sitting in a small Asian restaurant in Berlin together with a woman around my age. I know her from many years ago, when we stayed in a closer normal-friendship-contact with each other for a while. I remembered her as small, slender and with a conspicuous nose. Those times were good times, I memorized her as original, spontaneous and with an own mind. I was curious, how such a character would have grown within a period of almost twenty years. Hence I arranged that meeting.

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Restaurant conversation scene, oil on canvas, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, Berlin December 2019

She is still small and lean, but her aquiline nose even grew and now throws a permanent shadow over her narrow lips. At the second third of its entire length her nasal bridge forms a pointed hunch, bringing her nasal tip in a position, where it can almost touch her upper lip. Against the light, a small and thin almost invisible moustache takes over the function of a spacer between the headed downwards nasal tip and the upper rim of her upper jaw lip.

Career and USA stay

She optically didn’t change so much, except of that much bigger nose. But her character changed. She talks a lot for the talking’s sake and seems unable to bring any of her spoken thoughts to an end, as if she permanently needs to prove the multitasking capacity of her brain, which externally is covered by a loose ponytail of black and dense curled hair. Her eager multitasking demonstrations fail from start to finish, but I can capture some information out of the muddle of her synaptic interconnections. What did she do in her past? She studied one of these university programs, which are considered by natural scientists at least as being in a general tendency still a kind of academic. She then intended to begin a phd thesis, but alleged corruption made her depart from that notion. She instead became a business woman and while twaddling about her career, she creates a reliable picture of her well developed business acumen.

And she knows the United States, because she was there. Almost an entire year, and when she uses the term „USA“ again and again, she each time leans her body pleasantly relaxed to her chair back. She then lifts her face up and closes her eyes to narrow slots, the lips pressed against each other, while her elongated nostrils open slowly to inhale as much air as possible in one delightful breath.

She slowly gets in her pink of condition, her nippy hands flail through the air, and for a short moment she changes the topic and describes an unusually shaped penis, which she once saw, as a humorous non-recurring slip of the wittiness in her younger days.

Buzzwords

And suddenly she says THE word for her first time during our encounter: Impeachment. Impeeeeeaaachmeeent! Her glabellar frown lines emerge between her cropped eyebrows, quivering lips, her nasolabial wrinkles bend outwards and her hands draw a thick circle in the air. Impeachment, since some time a common buzzword in the world of hipsters. The general political context is clear, a procedure, which in the recent case might indeed be deserved. But what is her context? She repeats it several times, only the same one word, impeachment, impeachment, impeachment. I intently try to follow her thread, but only find a frayed ball of wool. Impeachment, an isolated statement through itself, no explanation needed.

She caws the word again, ‚impeeeeeaaachment‘, and while her lips open in order to allow her incisors on both jaws to remove from each other to form a gap for the tip of her tongue, when pronouncing the last letter ‚ttttttttt‘, her shoulders tremble, and her nasal wings on both sides begin to inflate slightly.

Normally the via nose inhaled air would be pressed into the lungs for the gas exchange, but the I-word obviously created such a frenetic mood in her brain that she accidentally interrupts the normal way of air flow and presses it immediately out through her nasal orifices again, still in fresh, non oxidised conditions, where it appears, well audibly and visibly, contaminated with mucous membrane secretions, creating a foamy and slimy mass, which squirts from there directly to the clean polished white edge of her plate.

Silence, I don’t know what to say and watch her tiny slime lumps, forming microscopic small threads, slowly and one after another melting down to the white table cloth. I think I should take the chance of this unique little moment to comment her impeachment topic. There is a US president, who is accused of corruption and electoral manipulation by even influencing the internal political competition in other countries. But isn’t he additionally and non officially also accused for his character, his private life style and also for his unfiltered direct way of public communication, in which he not rarely mixes up his personal opinions with his political objectives? Also his conservative and nationalistic policy line periodically is focus of criticism. Thus impeachment kills two birds with one stone, it defends the rule of law and eliminates political opponents.

What did his predecessor Barack Obama know about cruel injustice during military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2009? Another interesting point is the Ferguson unrest in 2014 as consequence of the shooting of Michael Brown as the biggest racial riots since the Martin Luther King era in the USA, did the black president do enough to guarantee more equality to all people? But there was no impeachment procedure against him. Why? Because he was holding his public office with less infringements? Or does an impeachment procedure depend on how pleasant the way of smiling of a president is? Too popular questions? I agree, it cannot be ruled out at this point. On the other hand I need to signalize her somehow my interest in her topic. I decide to ask her a question, but then pause, when I notice that even she herself is not interested in talking about her topic. Buzzwords are to be used not to be discussed.

My plan was to ask her, whether Donald Trump did at least a good job in the de-escalation of the North Korea conflict. But she already changed her topics to create bridges for the use of her further buzzwords. She first is chatting about food and her low carb diet, and actually discusses German traditions, such as the Munich beer festival or the carnival in Cologne, with herself. She uses this context to introduce her latest buzzword: „sexy“. A biologist needs in such a case to play a very close attention. Sexy? No, no, she doesn’t talk about human mating behaviors and reproduction, she is indeed talking about her feelings for a specific German city. Just another buzzword that modern hipsters have to have used at least once in their conversations. Sexy means then nothing else than very nice or very useful.

I am nevertheless trying to follow her threads, but cannot contribute much to them, when she suddenly lifts her head up, her eyes open widely and glow, and her glance fixes me, provoking and demanding for attention. Her plait flies in the air, while the corners of her mouth tremor with excitement, the index finger of her right hand running tetchily over her pointed chin. She takes a deep breath, obviously being strained based on a mix of anticipation and eagerness. No doubt, she intends to say something meaningful.

„It totally exasperates me, when people entering or leaving a subway train do not follow any rules at all. They should understand that the compliance of a fixed order would reduce long waiting times and great uneasiness.“ She is seemingly indeed waiting for an answer, her eyes are asymmetrically moving up and down, while obviously expecting my comment of consent. And it could be of course an interesting topic for a constructive conversation, considering aspects of the chaos theory, according to which a spontaneous order can under certain conditions emerge out of a seeming chaotic situation, such as people moving towards each other in an generally uncontrolled traffic scenery.

But she obviously doesn’t want to discuss about scientific theories, but simply seeks confirmation. Confirmation for being a city hipster, very well experienced in urban transport systems, in contrast to a rural hipster, who doesn’t even know how to pronounce the term „subway“.

The Fly

I instead decide to go to the bathroom, while she is eating like a harvester to gain enough nutrients to survive her hipsterish low-carb diet. The bathroom is small and poorly lit, and the air inside is filled with the scent of cheap urinal-freshening blocks, distributing the odour of malodorous and rotten lemon fruits. I look into the mirror, consisting of cracked old glass, and discover a tiny fly, shimmering in a pleasant metallic green like a valuably polished sapphire would shine out of the dark at nightfall. It is diligently rubbing its forelegs against each other and says no word.

Suddenly the fly gracefully tilts its head forward and uses the stout and thorned tibial hitch ends of the same forelegs to purge the area behind its deep red compound eyes. While doing so, it still remains silent as if it were a rehearsed mime artist. Seemingly after a small eternity, the green bottle fly fills its wing venation with blood.

And while it flies up in the air with a short jerky movement, the dipteran mercilessly breaks the beneficial silence with its monotonous trembling and squeaky voice, saying out loud, what most flies use to say, when seeking attention and confirmation without any meaningful profundity: „bzzzzzzzzzz, bzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz“. The garrulous insect performs two or three elegant laps closely below the ceiling and then disappears inside the heavily incrusted ceramic basin of the next urinal. On the mirror surface remains nothing but a tiny ochre-colored flyspeck, which only for a short moment reflects the dim overhead light, before it completely dries out to an unspectacular powdery small spot. One among many older others, spoiling the mirror glass like a skin rash, reminders of the many generations of green bottle flies that lived inside this musty courtyard toilet room.

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Fly, oil on canvas, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, Berlin December 2019

Berlin, December 2019, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth