Geology is what we look to when we want enduring monuments. Rock and metal outlast anything made of living tissue. Or do they? In another example of science getting poetic, it seems that a symbol of ephemera — a butterfly — provides evidence of a mountain long turned to dust.
Monarch butterflies are some of the toughest insects in the world. Their migration takes them from southern Canada to central Mexico. The journey is so long and difficult that it outlasts the butterfly's lifetime. Monarchs lay eggs at different stages through the journey. No one generation makes the whole trip.
Along this journey are several sites that have become local treasures and tourist attractions. The monarchs, flying in swarms, group together to rest in small areas, covering the trees like bright orange leaves. But although these sites are the most showy part of the journey, they're not the most amazing.
The amazing part of the journey is the sudden eastward turn that monarchs take over Lake Superior. Monarchs fly over the lake, necessarily, in one unceasing flight. That alone would be difficult, but the monarchs make it tougher by not going directly south. They fly south, and at one point of the lake turn east, fly for a while, and then turn back toward the south. Why?
Biologists, and certain geologists, believe that something was blocking the monarchs' path. They believe that that part of Lake Superior might have once been one of the highest mountains ever to loom over North America. It would have been useless for the monarchs to try to scale it, and wasteful to start climbing it, so all successfully migrating monarchs veered east around it and then headed southward again. They've kept doing that, some say, even after the mountain is long gone.
This puts a new spin on how we look at geology and geography. We think of mountains as structures that are, nearly, ageless. They stand while successive generations of animals change and evolve around them. Perhaps not this time, though. This time, butterflies kept up their same pattern while the world changed under them, the mountain wearing away, or being destroyed. This time, flesh outlasted stone.
There are magical places. Places that you think may exist only in your imagination, but then you find out that to be true. Since the summer is upon us then here’s a special and magical journey that takes you to the island of Elba to the discovery of “The Butterflies Sanctuary.”
On the slopes of Monte Capanne – the peak of the island – is among the Monte Perone and Monte Maolo in a breathtaking setting between mountain and sea, this magical place. Two kilometers of promenade between air and maritime pine brackish where you can observe them in their habitat an almost infinite number of butterflies.[...]
It's been known for decades that animals such as chimpanzees seek out medicinal herbs to treat their diseases. But in recent years, the list of animal pharmacists has grown much longer, and it now appears that the practice of animal self-medication is a lot more widespread than previously thought, according to a University of Michigan ecologist and his colleagues.
Animals use medications to treat various ailments through both learned and innate behaviors. The fact that moths, ants and fruit flies are now known to self-medicate has profound implications for the ecology and evolution of animal hosts and their parasites, according to Mark Hunter, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
In addition, because plants remain the most promising source of future pharmaceuticals, studies of animal medication may lead the way in discovering new drugs to relieve human suffering, Hunter and two colleagues wrote in a review article titled "Self-Medication in Animals," published online April 11 in the journal Science.
"When we watch animals foraging for food in nature, we now have to ask, are they visiting the grocery store or are they visiting the pharmacy?" Hunter said. "We can learn a lot about how to treat parasites and disease by watching other animals."
Much of the work in this field has focused on cases in which animals, such as baboons and woolly bear caterpillars, medicate themselves. One recent study has suggested that house sparrows and finches add high-nicotine cigarette butts to their nests to reduce mite infestations.
But less attention has been given to the many cases in which animals medicate their offspring or other kin, according to Hunter and his colleagues. Wood ants incorporate an antimicrobial resin from conifer trees into their nests, preventing microbial growth in the colony. Parasite-infected monarch butterflies protect their offspring against high levels of parasite growth by laying their eggs on anti-parasitic milkweed.
Hunter and his colleagues suggest that researchers in the field should "de-emphasize the 'self' in self-medication" and base their studies on a more inclusive framework.
"Perhaps the biggest surprise for us was that animals like fruit flies and butterflies can choose food for their offspring that minimizes the impacts of disease in the next generation," Hunter said. "There are strong parallels with the emerging field of epigenetics in humans, where we now understand that dietary choices made by parents influence the long-term health of their children."
There is no shortage of new and interesting uses for 3D printing technology.
This week one more has been added to the list, and it's pretty darn impressive: replacing 75 percent of a patient's skull with a 3D-printed implant
The skull implant was approved by the FDA last month, and the surgery itself took place on March 4, as reported by Tech News Daily.
The implant was made from a type of thermoplastic called polyetherketoneketone (PEKK). This material is moldable above a certain temperature, and returns to a solid state when it cools. Unlike most plastics, thermoplastics’ long polymer chains do not break down during the melting process.
As with all 3D printing, the process begins with a digital scan to use as a blueprint. In this case that would be a CT scan or MRI of the patient’s skull.
Then the printer makes a new version of the skull’s missing piece, layer by layer.
The printed version mimics a real skull in many ways, but also adds detailing on the surface and edges of the implant to encourage cell growth. This can also help existing bone attach to the implant more easily.
The patient-specific products can be cranked out in about two weeks.
Patients who have suffered car accidents or head trauma would benefit from this technology, as well as those with cancerous bone tissue in the skull.
And unlike existing implants made from materials like titanium, the plastic implants are light, non-corroding and won’t set off the metal detector at the airport.
The 3D-printed implant was manufactured by a Connecticut-based company called Oxford Performance Materials.
Although the company already ships its 3D-printed implants overseas, this marks the first time such a surgery has been given the go-ahead in the U.S. In the future the company hopes to expand its production to include replacements for all kinds of bones in the body.
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