Sunday, 28 March 2010

All About Thread-Waisted Wasps

It truly is a world of fascination when it comes to the insect world.  Insects are the most numerous and successful species on earth, and the life-cycles and habits of some insects are really amazing. In this fascinating and informative Hub, Bard of Ely tells us all about sand or thread-waisted wasps.

The Bard has been trying to encourage Monarch butterflies into his garden on Tenerife, and he believes that the predatory sand wasp is one of the reasons they are not arriving.  The sand wasp is a large insect that is native to Tenerife.  They are members of the crabonid wasps group known as Bembicini, and are commonly striped black and yellow, but there are some specimens that are black and white with green eyes.

They are predatory insects and the caterpillars of the Monarch butterfly are one of their very favourite meals. A female sand wasp searches for these caterpillars to feed her young and stings them in order to stun them.  The caterpillars are then carried off to be placed in a burrow that the wasp has dug in the sandy soil and sealed in along with a sand wasp egg. These burrows are generally only very short, simple affairs with a bigger space excavated at the end for the larva to grow and feed in. The egg then hatches and uses the helpless caterpillar as a source of nourishment as it grows and develops.

The female sand wasps sometimes choose to dig their nesting burrows close together if they find an area where the ground is especially suitable for their needs, creating a large clusters of these insects.  This inevitably leads to parasites of the thread-waisted wasps, such as cleptoparasites, also being attracted to the area, and the opportunistic sand wasps are not above preying on their own parasites, which is not that common in the insect kingdom.

To find out more read the whole of the Hub on sand wasps or thread-waisted wasps

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Volcanic Eruptions Aided The Rise of the Dinosaurs

From about 200 million years ago dinosaurs were the prominent vetebrates on our planet.  They held onto this prominence for around 135 million years before they became extinct.  But how did the dinosaurs manage to outcompete other species like this?

A recent study suggests that a huge amount of volcanic activity was one of the reasons for the rise of the dinosaurs. It is believed that these volcanic eruptions disrupted the climate enough to cause a mass extinction of species that knocked out the dinosaurs main competitors. The lava flows from the eruptions at the end of the Triassic period coincided with the extinction of 50% of the four-limbed creatures called tetrapods, 50% of the world's plants and 20% of marine species.

However, it is not known how the dinosaurs survived these extremely challenging conditions, when other species failed to.  Maybe it was because their biggest competitors, the crurotarsans, which had competed vigorously with the dinosaurs during the Triassic had disappeared or mabe it was pure chance. 

So read on to find out more about how volcanic eruptions may have aided the rise of the dinosaurs

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Life Discovered Beneath Antarctic Ice Sheet

A team of NASA scientists exploring beneath an Antarctic ice sheet 600 feet thick were surprised to find signs of life in the dark, icy water.  As they lowered their video camers a strange shrimp-like creature swam by and then perched on the cable of the camera.  The scientists also recovered a tentacle that they believe was part of a jelly fish that was a foot long.

The NASA scientists has made the assumption that nothing could survive living under the ice, but the existence of the shrimp-like creature, later identified as a Lyssianasid amphipod, and the jelly fish indicates that there would be other creatures living in the area.

Read on for the whole article on life found beneath the Antarctic ice sheet

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Headless Remains Were Probably Executed Vikings

Archaeologists have announced that they believe that the remains of 50 young men that had been beheaded were probably those of executed Vikings. The remains were discovered last year in Weymouth and analysis of teeth samples from ten of the bodies has shown that the men were of Scandinavian origin.

The remains in the burial pit date back to between 910 AD and 1030 AD, when the Vikings were making regular raids on the British coastline.  It appears that the young Viking men were executed at one spot, probably in front of an audience, by the local Anglo Saxons.  The decapitated skulls were then placed into one part of the burial pit and the rest of the body flung into another part of the hole.

Read on for the whole of the article on the burial pit of the headless Vikings

Friday, 5 March 2010

Egyptian Queen's Tomb Discovered at Saqqara

Egyptologists have discovered the tomb of an Ancient Egyptian Queen at Saqqara, which is 30 kms south of Cairo. The burial chamber of Queen Behenu was discovered near her pyramid, which lies within the necropolis of Pharaoh Pepi I, and contains an intact sarcophagus and the walls are inscribed with pyramid texts.  Pyramid texts are spells and instructions designed to help the deceased make the dangerous passage into the afterlife.

The sarcophagus is carved from granite and gives the Queen's name and titles but does not give the identity of her husband.  Egyptologists are unsure as to whether Behenu's husband was Pepi I or Pepi II, both pharaohs of the 6th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt's Old Kingdom.

Read on for the whole article on the discovery of the tomb of Queen Behenu

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Enormous Statue of Amenhotep III Discovered at Luxor

A huge statue of Amenhotep III is being reconstructed from many pieces of red granite that were discovered in the southern part of the great courtyard of Amenhotep III's mortuary temple on the West Bank of the Nile at Luxor.  The 3000 year old smoothly polished red granite head depicts Amenhotep III with youthful features and the head is 2.5 metres high.

The statue of Amenhotep III that the head belongs to is in the standing position and wears the white crown of Upper Egypt.  Amenhotep III was a pharaoh of Ancient Egypt's glittering 18th Dynasty, who built many temples and monuments throughout Egypt.  He was also the father of the famous heretic pharaoh Akhenaten, and after recent DNA testing on the royal mummies, it is believed that he is the grandfather of Tutankhamen.

Read on for the whole news article on the discovery of the colossal statue of Amenhotep III

Colossi of Memnon, Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III