Sunday, July 31, 2016

SHY CANNIBALS ... THE PONDHAWK ... and then a bit of DNA awestruckiness

Cannibalism. while not popular in our species, is easier when you are a dragonfly who perceives anything that moves as either a meal or a threat.

 For a powerfully built pondhawk ... (Eastern Pondhawk...I think), even other dragonflies provide a large and useful meal.
This pondhawk decapitated another dragonfly and was quietly consuming it on a sabal palm frond when my son in law Rob spotted it. 
It's best not to be too obvious with your prize if you're a dragonfly with prey and this pondhawk was holding everything still except his mandibles.
They were working.
Hey!  I'm eatin' here!

 Another pondhawk was flitting about and diving in towards the dining pondhawk, so he changed location and assumed a better position for protecting the prize while keeping an eye on the skies. 

 Anyone who admires, rather than fears insects has to be blown away by their architecture.


All of it coded for by DNA, the shape, the location, and the function of every bitty bit (that science talk for really small parts) due to a sequential arrangement of 4 different bases.

I love teaching the DNA portion of my high school Biology course. We delve into molecular biology far deeper than we used to do.
The rate of new DNA discovery keeps a teacher on their toes too ... there's something new almost daily.
Ya gotta keep up Teach.

I always hope that some of my sense of wonder at this amazing chemical comes through during these lessons.

Sometimes you just need to get up close to some multifaceted organism like a blue crab (careful on the closeness), a passionflower blossom, or ... a dragonfly... and observe and ponder ... heck count if you want to ... all the different structures and how they interact to make that organism function.
And I'm only brushing the surface here ... obviously the inside of this dragonfly is loaded with special jiggly bits that allow it to dragonfly around my yard like it does.
ALL of it coded for by DNA.

AND ... we haven't even mentioned the DNA switches that turn on and off to change the aquatic nymph form of this creature to the flashy, flying, death dealing P-51 fighter of the insect world.
Also, since this is an instinctive animal ... not a thinker like you, ALL of it's basic behavior is pre-programmed by ... wait, what was that chemical ?

Oh yeah, Deoxyribonucleic Acid.
If these guys didn't exist, you could never make one up.
It's like something from IKEA ... so many different parts !   Lucky for us, DNA (and the proteins it codes for) does all the assembly.


Julie Zickefoose said...

Exactly the mix of beauty, grim reality and sciencey stuff that I lap up like pondhawk thoracic muscle. MmMMM good. Well played, FC. And thanks to your Very Useful Son-in-Law Rob for finding the horrifically enchanting scene. JZ

robin andrea said...

What Julie says, "the horrifically enchanting scene," so full of the everyday science that keeps us all going. I just submitted my packet of DNA saliva to 23@me. I can't wait to see what and who I am. I'm so hoping to find that I'm at least 5% Neanderthal. Maybe I'm a little bit pond hawk too (just kidding, hah!).

Wally Jones said...

Terrific post! Great photographs! Wonderful science lesson!

I've been distracted in the past couple of years from birding by chasing dragons. Amazing critters.

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