taste sense insects flies

Tasting with their Feet


A way to find out what’s good before you put it in your mouth

Have you ever thought how practical it would be if we could taste with our fingers? We would not have to bite into each apple or chocolate candy to locate the most delicious one – we’d simply run our fingers along and let them do the tasting. Sounds a bit like science fiction? Well, numerous insects and crustaceans actually taste this way. Taste and smell are so-called chemoreceptors, but smell operates over distances, taste requires physical contact (disregarding the remote taste receptors of snakes known as Jacobson’s or vomero-nasal organ, which will be the topic of a separate blog some day). —>

To Know or not to Know Yourself

Are animals aware of themselves?

In his book “The Self and its Brain” the famous Australian 1963 winner of the Nobel Prize in “Physiology or MedicineSir John Eccles addressed the question whether an animal’s self-consciousness was the product of its brain or whether the brain served the animal’s self. Eccles, although an Australian by birth, it is often forgotten that he served as a professor at New Zealand’s Otago University from 1944 to 1951 and that during this period he devised a completely new course in physiology for medical students and carried out fundamentally important work, published in the journal NATURE as a paper co-authored by A.K. McIntyre. In 1951, he disproved his own theory of electrical synaptic transmission and accepted that the transmission was chemically mediated. His lab at that time was described as a “chicken cage of oscilloscopes, wires and animals” and he himself was seen as the “caricature of the mad scientist”, who once spent 24 hours “cooped up” in his cage . —>

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The Enigma of Fever

Worms, insects, lizards: they all can develop a fever

Most of us, especially those with children, know how alarming and worrying elevated body temperature, in other words fever, can be. We use a thermometer to find out whether a child is feverish, but traditionally Trobriand Islanders used head lice which they’d put on the heads of their children. These ectoparasites do not like high temperatures and therefore their disappearance from the heads of a child would indicate to the parent that the child has developed a fever and something is wrong with the child’s health; after all a healthy child entertains head lice. Fever is probably the oldest and best known manifestation of an infection and ill health, but its function is still debated and it is not generally accepted whether it’s a harmful or trivial, temporary side effect, or whether it is actually beneficial. —>