Category: Science

Recapping Genetic Engineering & Biotech News: First Weekly Round-up

So I mentioned earlier this month that one of the ideas that had been floating around in my head last year was doing a weekly post summarizing all the science news I had read that week (and probably shared via Twitter or LinkedIn).

This will be the first in hopefully weekly (or possibly bi-weekly) installments of my Science News Round-Up. The topics are going to be bouncing around from cancer treatments to neurological disorder treatments, to DNA, RNA, protein, and probably everything in between.

As mentioned before–my top strength is learner, which means I love reading on different topics (and within science I hop between just about everything). Also these posts may lead to other spin-off posts as I will possibly be looking into various topics more deeply.

Also if I am able to download the paper that is mentioned in the article–they will automatically become a separate post and will show up at a later date (after I have time to read the paper and take notes). So, with that said basically all of the news round-ups will be over the news brief, background, but not the actual article.

Also–FYI this first one, is going to be a very long post (possibly a fifteen to twenty minute read).

The articles this week are all showcased on Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News website. Their site is usually updated Monday thru Friday with new stories, and you can also subscribe to their newsletter and get their daily briefings.

One article this week was entitled “Strategy to boost CAR-T cell efficacy against solid tumors demonstrated in mice”.

A little background is probably needed:

CAR-T cells are white blood cells that have been genetically engineered to recognize and attack cancer cells that are expressing certain proteins on their surface.

The proteins on the surface of the cancer cells are the ‘antigens’ that the CAR-T cells recognize. This allows for the CAR-T cells to be ‘customized’ for different cancer types, and can be considered almost a ‘personalized’ treatment plan for cancer patients.

Generation of CAR-T cells. Cartoon (c) Dana-Faber Cancer blog

This treatment method has been successful for B-cell lymphoma and is in clinical trials for other blood cancers.

There are two problems with using this treatment for other types of cancers (outside of lymphomas) are 1) CAR-T cells have to get to the tumor site, and then 2) enter the tumor and be able to survive and replicate to kill off the cancer cells.

A group of scientists at the University of North Carolina may have found a way to increase the success rate of CAR-T cells when combined with other immuno-therapies.

They published their work “STING agonist promotes CAR-T cell trafficking and persistence in breast cancer” in the journal of Experimental Medicine. Again disclosure–I haven’t read the article, because it is behind a pay wall (where you have to pay to have access to the article). I’m hoping it will become freely accessible within the next six to eight months.

The key take away points from the news article were that by activating the STING pathway (which is an pathway that induces inflammation in response to a viral or bacterial infection), the CAR-T cells ability to destroy cancer cells in mice increased. In addition if the ‘checkpoint’ of turning off the CAR-T cells was inhibited, their ability to ‘stay on’ increased as well.

They then came up with a triple combination: CAR-T cells derived from either Th17 or Tc17 cells (T-cells that had longer persistence in the tumor micro-environment), use of therapeutic antibodies to deplete various immuno-suppressive cells from the micro-environment, and turning off the CAR-T ‘check-point’ allowed for these CAR-T cells to destroy breast cancer cells in mice.

To be able to translate these results to human trials, a different agonist for the STING pathway would be needed (as the one used in mice doesn’t activate the pathway in humans). Plus, one would need to see which cancer could be treated with activating the STING pathway. The group stated that they would initially focus on improving treatments for head and neck cancers first, and if the combination is beneficial, move on to other cancers.

CAR-T image came from: https://blog.dana-farber.org/insight/2018/20/recurrence-remission-lymphoma-patient-cancer-free-car-t-cell-therapy/

The second article I read was titled “RNA-DNA World Circumvents RNA World Sticking Point”.

This article covered the sticky question–which was first DNA or RNA?

Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute published their paper “Prebiotic Phosphorylation and Concomitant Oligomerization of Deoxynucleosides to form DNA” in the journal Angewandte Chemie. Again–I haven’t read the paper, because it is behind a pay wall.

What the group found though is that through the combination of two chemicals (diamidophosphate and 2-aminoimidazole) that were probably also present in the ozone of Earth’s early atmosphere, along with various nucleotides, you can end up with a RNA-DNA chimera.

This chimera then allowed each ‘strand’ to somewhat easily disassociate from the other to replicate, but at the same time forming a chimera from time to time for stability.

The RNA-DNA World Hypothesis. (c) phys.org/news/2019-09-rna-dna-rna-chimeras

The RNA-world hypothesis is based on the idea that RNA was the original self-replicating molecule. The only ‘sticky’ problem with this hypothesis is that when RNA binds to itself (forming a double-stranded molecule), it is very difficult to pull them apart without the help of enzymes (which wouldn’t have been present at early in Earth’s formation).

The chimera RNA-DNA gives support to the hypothesis that maybe DNA and RNA co-emerged at roughly the same time.

This discovery (that the interaction of these two chemicals and various nucleotides can lead to synthesis of DNA) leads to another question–could there now be a broader impact on science? Could the use of these two chemicals possibly make various things easier and cheaper? Such as developing an enzyme-free method of making DNA & RNA, which could then lead to revamping how we do PCR reactions or even synthesize various oligo nucleotides for research.

Image of the RNA-DNA world hypothesis from: https://phys.org/news/2019-09-rna-dna-rna-dna-chimeras

The third article that I read this past week was “Single-cell transcriptome profiling of gastric tumors reveals prognostic gene signatures”.

One major problem with all forms of cancers is the heterogeneity of the tumors. While people can have the ‘same type’ of cancer–for example, breast cancer–each cancer is actually slightly different due to the individual mutations of each patient.

This is why developing cancer treatments are so difficult–they may not (and often do not) work for every patient with that particular cancer. This is one reason why there has been such a push for individualized cancer treatment plans.

So a group of scientists at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, were able to use single-cell sequencing to look at the individual transcriptome of cancer cells from 20 patients who had/have advanced gastric cancer.

Schematic for single cell sequencing from basically any biological starting material

Their article “Single-cell dissection of intratumoral heterogeneity and lineage diversity in metastatic gastric adenocarcinoma” was published recently in Nature Medicine. Again, I have not read the article because it is behind a pay wall (hopefully will be available freely in about six to twelve months).

They collected ascites fluid (which is the fluid that accumulates in the abdominal cavity due to liver disease, cancer, and/or heart failure), from these patients and then isolated a specific cancer cell: peritoneal carcinomatosis cells. These are a specific cancer cell that invades the abdominal cavity, adhering to the stomach and other organs.

They isolated, profiled, and sequenced 45,048 peritoneal carcinomatosis (PC) cells. They learned that the cells seemed to have one of two lineage origins: gastric (stomach) and were considered the most aggressive PC cells resulting in a shorter survival prognosis, or intestinal-like, which were less aggressive, allowing patients to have a longer survival rate.

Through the profiling of the 45,048 cells, they were able to isolate a signature pattern of 12 genes that could be correlated to patient survival, which they tested against even more data from more patients who have PC.

They are hoping that the profiles of the PC cells may also give rise to potential targets for treatment, as there is currently no effective treatment for patients who have peritoneal carcinomatosis.

Cartoon on single-cell sequence came from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single_cell_sequencing

The next article was one I found really interesting: “MicroRNAs modulating diurnal rhythms in cells identified in genome-wide study”.

I found this article fascinating in part to the fact that microRNAs were the topic of my dissertation thesis (though I worked with plants and not animals), and the fact that the other portion (diurnal or circadian rhythm) was the recipient of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (and had been awarded to a trio of scientists–Dr. Jeffrey C. Hall, Dr. Michael Rosbash, and Dr. Michael W. Young).

The paper “A genome-wide microRNA screen identifies the microRNA-183/96/182 cluster as a modulator of circadian rhythms” and was published recently in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. While I haven’t read the paper, I am going to figure out a way to access it (without hopefully having to pay for it), or maybe wait for to to be freely accessible.

So, basically every living thing has a circadian clock (the internal 24-hour clock that is basically running on auto-pilot in the background carrying out the day-to-day essential functions of living).

Most research has been focused on the protein-protein interactions and various pathways and feedback loops. This group changed their focus and looked at a specific class of non-coding RNAs (miRNAs) that regulate genes, but at the transcriptional level.

They screened almost a thousand microRNAs in a luciferase reporter system that was engineered to glow on and off based on the cell’s specific 24-hr circadian clock.

To their surprise, they found 120 microRNAs that affected the bacteria’s circadian clock. Looking at the microRNAs, they decided to go with the cluster miR183/96/182, as mi96 showed to regulate PER2 (which is a core circadian clock gene).

They then went on to knocking out the cluster in the bacteria, and found that depending on how they knocked out the cluster (leaving one miRNA present), they either shortened the circadian period or increased the amplitude of the period.

Wanting to see how the cluster affected the circadian clock in mammals, they knocked the cluster out in mice and found that the mice lacking the cluster had a more difficult time trying to run on a wheel in the dark.

It will be interesting to see how miRNAs, the circadian clock, and disease all tie together.

The final article that I read this week was “Marine natural products identified with potential to treat lethal RNA viruses”.

The title of the actual research paper is “Natural products with the potential to treat RNA virus pathogens including SARS-CoV2” and was published in the Journal of Natural Products. This is a journal that if I renew my membership in the American Chemical Society I should be able to gain access to at some point this year.

So there is a big push in science to find natural products that can serve as antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antiparastic, and anticarcinogenic treatments. This is due in part to various things (such as bacteria and cancer cells) finding ways to get around current treatments.

There is already quite a bit of research going in this area in terms of looking at plants and soil bacteria (plus other soil organisms), for natural products. Recently there has been a push to look at the oceans for other potential natural products that could be beneficial to human health.

Currently there are ~21 pharmaceuticals that can trace their discovery to a marine natural product. For example, Marizomib (an potential proteasome inhibitor) is in clinical trials for be used as a potential treatment for different brain cancers.

It can trace its discovery to a genus of marine bacteria that was collected from seafloor sediments in 1990 by scientists at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

The scientists are looking to develop a library of compounds with medicinal potential from natural products found in the marine environment (so metabolites from various organisms).

The one thing that I found interesting was that I didn’t realize that members of only 3 RNA virus families have caused all the viral epidemics and pandemics throughout human history (or at least since we’ve started recording it). These 3 virus families (Coronaviridae, Flaviviridae, & Filoviridae) are responsible for the following viruses: SARS-CoV2 (COVID19), dengue fever, West Niles encephalitis, Zika, Ebola, and Marburg disease.

The thought that a treatment is just floating under the waves for any of these viral diseases is quite fascinating–as we are still learning what is actually living under the waves. But it also serves as a reminder that we need to continue (and improve) the protections we have in place for the oceans. These waters cover almost 70% of the planet, so it really shouldn’t be a surprise that the cure/remedy/treatment for numerous diseases caused by viruses could be under the waves.

So this wraps up my first science news round up. I realize that it is an extremely long post, and I may try to do it in two parts moving forward or just limit the number of articles I recap (here I did five articles).

I hope that this has been beneficial to you, and let me know if it still seems to have too much scientific jargon, which topic you found interesting, and also possibly what topic(s) you would like me to dive deeper into with either a series of blog posts or pages under the ‘all things science’ category.

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National Bird Day, the first of three bird holidays

So today is National Bird Day. This is just one of the few days that are devoted to our feathered friends. The other important bird dates include Bird Day on May 4th, and then World Migratory Bird Day on May 8th (this one changes yearly as it is the second Saturday in May).

Great Horned Owl roosting at Boomer Lake

National Bird Day was started in 2002 by the Avian Welfare Coalition for a specific purpose: “to raise awareness of the hardships and plights of these important animals and how we can initiate the change needed to create a healthier, more sustainable relationship with them”.

One of the reasons why they started the day is that roughly twelve percent of all bird species in the world (which is roughly 1200 out of roughly 10,000) are in peril of extinction–through habitat loss, illegal wildlife trade, pollution, introduction of invasive species, and the humans expanding cities and towns.

Killdeer and young along the bank of Boomer Lake

One thing that you can do on National Bird Day is to go out and bird watch (and actually it is something that you can do any time of the year–weather permitting). It is also a great way of helping to count the number of bird species, as there are different ‘bird counting’ events throughout the year. National Bird Day falls within the Christmas Bird Count that the Audubon Society hosts which runs through December and January.

Other things you can do include setting up bird feeders, planting native bushes and flowers to attract native birds. Donations to various wildlife organizations (such as Audubon Society, American Bird Conservancy, or Sierra Club), going to zoos (this supports the conservation efforts directed towards endangered species such as the California Condor and other birds).

Yellow finch sitting in the trees at Boomer Lake

So I usually do donations to various wildlife organizations when I can, I love to visit different zoos and see what animals are being cared for in different areas (usually the main difference can be in the bird species, reptile, and amphibian–sometimes fish), and I love birdwatching.

Green Heron flying through the mist at Boomer Lake

So, lets try to start being better caretakers of Mother Earth. While our population is growing–we should start revitalizing older, abandoned building instead of marching out into nature to build cities. Because if we destroy their world–we’re destroying ours as well.

What bird species are you hoping to get a picture of this year?

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Photography challenge day 14: the hairy caterpillar; which moth will it turn out to be? Tune in to 2021 to find out…..

So this weekend, when I put up the umbrella on the patio table I noticed that there was a rather large caterpillar slowly crawling around on it.

Hairy caterpillar on the patio umbrella

I managed to get one or pictures of it, and noticed that it was extremely fuzzy and had a distinct alternating series of bristles. Since these types of caterpillars usually have nettle hairs (that usually are hidden)—and can causes rashes if they come into contact with skin.

Still truckin’ along

I’ve noticed over the years that my skin has gotten a little more sensitive to certain things and that it doesn’t take much for me to break out in a rash (luckily the rash disappears within a couple of hours)—therefore I just let this particular caterpillar make its own way off the umbrella.

Hairy caterpillar making its way through the shadows

Since there are quite a few different species of moths and possibly a few butterflies that have hairy caterpillars—I can’t say for certain what the ‘adult’ version of this caterpillar is. Though it probably is a member of the Lymantriinae subfamily of moths (belonging to the family Erebidae). These are large moths, and while the adults don’t feed (they only breed and then die), the caterpillars are known to be pests and are considered pests as they have a broad range of host plants (including trees and shrubs to vines, herbs, and grasses).

It will be interesting to see in the spring what type of large moths I see around the yard and if I can then match a picture of the moth to those online and hopefully also match it to caterpillar. But since it is late in the year—I’m going to hazard a guess that this is the caterpillar of the pale tiger (or banded tussock) moth.

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Daring jumping spider: winner of the photography challenge-Day 12

The winner of today’s photography challenge is a little jumping spider that I noticed around the pond this summer.

I had decided last year, that I was going to try and branch out in photography subjects—therefore not just photographing birds, but looking for the smaller things as well.

In this case, it was a little jumping spider that was moving around the leaves of the decorative grass.

Jumping spider on the decorative grass

Now I’m not really a insect/arachnid/snake type of person (and I just realized I put the phrases of the things that I ‘avoid’ down—since I don’t mind butterflies, turtles, or lizards (can’t think of an arachnid that I ‘like’).

But I do find the smaller spiders to be somewhat cute—especially when I’m far enough away from them that I know we won’t be getting in close contact with each other.

It’s got an orange spot on its back

So this spider is the bold (or daring) jumping spider, and is found throughout the United States, southern Canada, northern Mexico, and introduced to Hawaii. I assume its name came from the fact that jumping spiders hunt their prey—running them down & if needed ‘jumping’ on them. This is a juvenile spider since the spots are tinted orange/red—as the adults usually have white spots.

So it’s nice to know that there are ‘nice’ spiders in the backyard trying to keep the insect pests in check—though, yes I know that if it bit me I could get a rash/welt. But, I’m never going to get that close to any spider to have it be able to bite me.

While I don’t like spiders–I wonder how many other types I can (or have already) gotten a picture of? Are you a spider person? If you are–which spider is your favorite?

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It’s a wasp week: photography challenge day 6: the yellow jacket

Today’s winner for the photography challenge is the yellow jacket wasp, also just known as the yellow jacket.

This is a predatory social wasp that is common to North America. These wasps live in a colony that contains worker wasps, queens, and drones; the colony is annual with only fertilized queens survives the winter and starts a new colony the coming spring/summer.

This queen will then spend the spring and through the summer into the autumn the queen spends the time laying eggs within the nest. Depending on where the queen builds the nest, the size of the colony can range from ~4000 members to larger numbers (upward of say 10,000 members and numerous eggs cells).

yellow jacket wasp flying around the hummingbird feeder

The diet of the yellow jacket wasp varies depending on either the stage of life or the position within the nest. The larval diet consists of proteins derived from insects, fish, and meats. The workers (drones) collect, chew, and basically regurgitate the food before feeding it to the larvae. The larvae feed the workers by secreting a sugary substance, and when there aren’t as many insects to feed to the larvae—the workers will go foraging for sugar sources outside the nest. The diet of the adult yellow jacket wasp consists of fruits, flower nectar and tree sap—plus the sugar water from hummingbird feeders.

Yellow jacket wasp feeding at the hummingbird feeder

Sometimes the nest/colony of yellow jacket wasps are very noticeable, other times they aren’t (as some are built behind/below steps and logs—hidden from sight). I actually remember one summer, when on vacation my dog found a yellow jacket nest—it was built behind a wooden step going down to the lake (after that—she totally hated any small flying insect that came near her—she had gotten stung several times in the snout).

Yellow jacket wasp hanging around the hummingbird feeder

I notice the yellow jackets coming out in the late summer (usually end of July through mid-September) at times feeding at the hummingbird feeder. Usually we don’t have that many issues with them—unless they keep flying around the patio table.

Unlike other insects—I don’t think I want to figure out where the yellow jacket nest is (not willing to risk getting stung); these are insects that I’m not scared of and realize that they are beneficial to have (as they do hunt other insects)—but I’m also not sorry if I don’t see them either.

Have you or your pets ever been stung by a yellow jacket wasp?

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Photography Challenge Day 5: The mighty cicada killer

Today’s entry into the photography challenge is the cicada killer. This is a large wasp that hunts cicadas—though they don’t eat them (the adults feed on nectar and sap)—the female will lay her eggs on a paralyzed cicadas allowing the wasp grub to feed on the cicada as it goes through several larval stages.

Cicada killer looking to dig a nest

Within the US they’re found in the throughout the country (divided between being the Eastern cicada killer and the Western cicada killer)—and since OK is almost central, I’m going with just cicada killer, and then south into Mexico and Central America.

In terms of size—the female cicada killers are larger than the males, only because they cart their ‘prizes’ off to their nests. I have no idea if this one is a male or a female—I’m going to guess female.

These wasps are actually burrow wasps—the female will dig her nest in the ground, and will have ‘egg cells’ off the main burrow. Within each cell the female will deposit one or more paralyzed cicadas and then lay an egg on the cicada. When the female lays a male egg—it goes on top of a single cicada; if the egg is female there may an addition cicada in the cell as well. Each cell is then closed off with dirt, and the female will continue digging cells as needed.

Once the eggs hatch, and after they go through their larval stages, the young will winter in the pupa stage underground and emerge the follow spring. There is only one generation per year.

I think a new photography goal will be trying to get a picture of a cicada killer carrying a cicada off to her nest, or possibly getting a picture of a cicada killer emerging from the nest in the spring.

I’ve never really been afraid of cicada killers—I always seem to have to ‘remind’ them that I’m not a cicada—as they seem to have really weird flight patterns. But we do get quite a few of these around the backyard in the summer.

Question: which would you prefer seeing a lot of during the summer—cicadas or cicada killers?

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Photography Challenge Day 199: Odds and Ends

So since I couldn’t just pick one or two pictures to share today, the theme is odds and ends. Basically a little bit of several things–namely insects, arthropods, and maybe either some fungi or a bird or two. In other words–it will be mainly pictures, with a few words here and there.

Viceroy butterfly

I did see a Viceroy butterfly on my morning walk the other day going around Boomer Lake. It was just sitting on the one edge of the bridge soaking up some morning sun before looking for food.

Heron flying overhead

I’m also pretty certain that I got a picture of a green heron in flight. The body type is right for them, and they’re a dark color. It just didn’t help that they had the sun at their back, making it hard to see the actual green color of their feathers.

Red-spotted Purple Admiral Butterfly

I managed to get a good picture of an red-spotted purple admiral this weekend as well. Luckily I spotted one on the street (and there weren’t any cars coming).

Bee on the flowers

Our decorative grass is flowering, and that means I’m starting to see some bees in the backyard again this fall. It’s always nice to see them.

Creepy little spider

Then I noticed that there was this little spider spinning it’s web between the leaves of some of the plants.

So these are just a few of the other pictures that I took this weekend (and I still have others I can share). Most of the pictures are nature/wildlife, as that is what I’m currently most comfortable trying to photograph. Though this fall/winter I may start branching out and starting to do some architecture shots as well. But mainly I’m focusing on enjoying a hobby, and maybe figuring out how to fit in daily with everything else.

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Photography Challenge day 184: A wolf spider, and a day late

So the winner of yesterday’s photography challenge is actually a spider. Now for the most part I do not like spiders—mainly because I know that there are several that if they bite me, they could seriously hurt (or even potentially kill) me. Therefore I usually give any spider I see quite a bit of room so they can disappear—unless we’re in close quarters and I’m fairly certain it could hurt me, then I kill it.

Wolf spider out for a walk.

Yesterday’s spider is actually a small wolf spider I saw on my morning walk this weekend. These are hunting spiders, and usually they’re outside (until cooler temperatures) so I’m good with them. Most of the members of this group don’t spin webs—they will run down their prey (hence the name wolf spider).

Wolf spiders can be found in almost any environment—from mountaintops to lava tubes, to deserts and rainforests. I’m actually shocked sometimes when I don’t see one on a morning walk (though to be totally honest—I don’t go looking for spiders to take pictures of).

Wolf spider walking through the water….

The mother wolf spider will actually carry the egg sac around with her until the young hatch, and then the young will stay with their mother until they are large enough to live on their own.

There are two endangered wolf spider species in the world: the desertas wolf spider in Portugal (specifically found in the Vale de Castanheira on the Deserta Grande Island of the Madeira archipelago). It is thought that there are less than 5,000 adult spiders found within the valley.

The second endangered wolf spider is the Kaua’i cave spider of Hawaii. The Kaua’i cave spider is another spider that is found in a very small geographical area: specifically caves in an old lava area on Kaua’i. These spiders are actually blind (since they spend all their time in the caves they’ve lost their eyes). These spiders only have between fifteen and thirty young per egg clutch (so their numbers are small right there compared to other spiders), and their main source of food is another endangered animal: the Kaua’i amphipod (a tiny shrimp-like crustacean), that is also sightless and reproduces at a slow rate.

One other unique fact about wolf spiders: when cornered by a predator—they will drop a leg that will still twitch. This will hopefully distract the predator while the wolf spider makes a getaway.

References:

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/group/wolf-spider/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hogna_ingens

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaua%CA%BBi_cave_wolf_spider

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Photography Challenge Day 169: The land snail

The winner of today’s photography challenge is the snail that was moving around the pond about a month or so ago. Snails belong to the class Gastropoda (and there are more than 65,000 species within the class) within the phylum Mollusca. This class is the largest group in the phylum, and includes both snails (land, fresh & sea) and slugs (both terrestrial and sea).

Snail on the move

This is a land snail, and they can go dormant during unfavorable weather conditions (cold, heat, drought).

Snail crawling up the small wall by the pond.

As with any animal, depending on where they are originally from (and then introduced), they can either become somewhat beneficial or harmful. Take the snails of Hawaii—over half are extinct (thanks to destruction of habitats, unintentional introduction of rats and non-native snails, and shell collection), and of the remaining species, most are critically endangered.

There are a small handful that cause health issues (only because they’re intermediate hosts for other parasites); for example there are several snail & slug species that serve as intermediate hosts for the rat lungworm—which can migrate to the brain and cause moderate to severe damage once it encysts within the brain tissue. Schistosomiasis is another disease that is caused by minute blood flukes that have snails and/or slugs as intermediate hosts.

They aren’t all bad though—they do have an important role to play in the ecosystem—they’re decomposers. They will help break down dead plant and animal matter into nutrients and compounds that living plants can uptake through their roots. Other snails are predators, and help keep other insect/snail/slug populations in check as well.

Snails under a rock

Then there as the time I did a little gardening work in the early spring, and when I turned over one of the rocks–I found a good number of snails attached to the bottom of it.

Close-up of some of the snails.

So I try to make sure that they get into the garden, or the compost pile to help break down all the dead leaves and other things that have been accumulating all winter. It will be interesting to see if I get out into the gardens this fall if I will find any snails or not.

Reference: https://www.britannica.com/animal/gastropod

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Photography Challenge Day 162: The Mississippi Kite

The winner of today’s photography challenge is the Mississippi kite. I’ve been lucky the past couple of days of seeing them sitting on the utility wires watching for insects to pass by, before they swoop in for the kill.

Mississippi Kite launching from the wire

These are migratory raptors, that breed in either the southeastern part of the country (Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, and parts of southeastern Arkansas), plus the parts of Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. We usually see them as they sail through the sky (usually just over the tops of trees), but every so often I can catch a glimpse of them sitting in trees or on wires.

It’s snack is grasped in one foot.

Last year I managed to get some really closeup pictures of them in the park. So far this year, my seeing them has been at a distance but I’ve still managed to get some good pictures.

It is eating it’s snack

This one I managed to catch it as it was launching into flight to grab it’s morning snack out of the air.

Then it returned to it’s perch to eat—and I’m pretty sure it probably caught a dragonfly (or a damselfly).

I’m still hungry…..

Then it neatly turned around to continue watching for more dragonflies or other insects to fly past, because I think it was still hungry.

Come fall these majestic birds will fly all the way to South America for the winter. One of the most unique things about these birds–they incorporate wasp nests into either their nests or the choice of where their nests go. The presence of a wasp nest will usually help deter any climbing predators away from the nest. They also can peacefully nest near other birds such as mockingbirds and blue jays (both of which are territorial–so it’s three for the price of one in terms of nest protection).

While I couldn’t get close to this kite, I’m pretty sure it’s still an adult (or at least a yearling)–while it would be cool to get a picture of a fledgling, I’m not going to risk getting dive bombed by either the parents or angry mockingbirds and blue jays. Adults and yearlings are the way to go for a good photograph.

I’m thinking that the theme for this coming week is sitting on a wire or gliding through the air.

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