To kick-start the New Year, let’s have a look at some curious bits and pieces I’ve found.
Glow-in-the-dark kitty. Perhaps you’re tired of the usual assortment of colours cats come in: tan, black, white, gray, marmalade, chocolate. So why not colour-coordinate so kitty matches your personal colour scheme preference? Scientists first cloned a cat in 2002 (the cat was named Copycat – how droll) but not content to just clone felines, researchers have now found a way to change the colour of cats. By modifying a gene, the enterprising scientists have produced the planet’s first red cloned cat (seems the colour palette is limited to red at the moment, so if red’s not your fav colour, bummer). The photo above shows two cloned Turkish Angola kittens (cute!). Due to the red fluorescence protein in their skin cells, the kittens look reddish under ultraviolet light.
I would think this would be a most useful feline feature should you have trouble finding kitty in the dark. Here’s a video of the glow-in-the-dark cats.
Source: The Korea Times
A beetle of many colours: staying with the colour theme, there’s a golden beetle species in Panama that can do its very own colour-changing trick without the need for gene modification. If it desires, the Panamanian tortoise beetle can turn brick-red in less than two minutes. This is not due to external temperature changes. The beetle can alter the flow of fluid in its ecoskeleton, which consists of 20 to 40 layers. Apparently, when the beetle is wet, wavelengths of light bounce off the ecoskeleton due to the porous nature of the layers and gives the beetle an overall glossy golden colour. But when the beetle has dried off, the light doesn’t bounce off evenly and the ecoskeleton becomes translucent, revealing red pigment. The colour-changing trick could have implications for biomimicry. If a house plant dries out, for instance, the pot could change colour to warn that the plant needs watering. Source: Discover Magazine
Don’t bug a cockroach in the morning. If you’re not a morning person, well you have some company: neither are cockroaches. Scientists have found that the learning ability of cockroaches is pretty kaput in the morning, but by evening, they’re raring to go with learning tasks and it’s the first example of an insect whose ability to learn is controlled by its biological clock. Now, I was more interested in what on earth scientists are teaching cockroaches. It seems they were taught to associate peppermint, which they don’t like, with sugar water so they would favour peppermint over one of their favourite smells – vanilla. Apparently, the bugs trained at night could remember the smell association for several days, but their morning trained counterparts were incapable of learning anything new, let alone remembering it. Mmmm….better get that vanilla out of my pantry or start training cockroaches fast! Source: Reuters.
How much would you pay for dessert? Well, if you have a spare US$14,500, you can savour the taste of the world’s most expensive dessert. A Sri Lankan hotel is serving up a chocolate pudding but this is no ordinary choc pud. This pudding includes a gemstone – an 80 carat aquamarine. The dessert sits on a pedestal with a model of a fisherman perched on a stilt and contains chocolate, champagne, caramelised sugar and the gemstone. This culinary experience costs seven times the average national income and so far only one dessert has been ordered. Let’s hope the person didn’t choke on the gemstone. Source: BBC News.
Japanese mutant ninja mice. Back to messing around with animals’ genetic make-up – a Japanese university professor has been interfering with the receptors in the olfactory bulb of mice and has produced fearless mice. Normally, a mouse gets a whiff of a cat and runs fast in the opposite direction. But because the part of the brain that processes information about smell has been blocked, the mice are so fearless they actually play with their nemesis as if they were long-lost friends. Mind you, the cat in the video below is Mochikko-chan, a cat that was specifically selected for the demonstration because of her docile nature. But still this mouse is pretty game!