A Bedbug's bite
This is a close-up look at any homeowner's nightmare: A bedbug. These reddish-brown bugs, each the size of an apple seed, are tough to eliminate once they take hold in the linens. Bedbugs were once virtually wiped out in the United States, but international travelers have carried them back to U.S. soil.
This scanning electron microscope photograph of a bedbug's head reveals its mouthparts, which are used to pierce the skin and suck the blood of its victims. While some people have no reaction to bedbug bites, others experience itchy clusters of hives.
Into the Blue
Here a close-up shot of a loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) in the Gulf of Mexico's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, which is about 100 miles (179 kilometers) off the Louisiana coast. Two new studies are showing the turtles are being contaminated with so-called persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which include banned substances such as DDT and toxaphenes, once used as pesticides; polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), once used as insulating fluids; and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), once used as flame retardants.
The studies showed the turtles accumulate more of the contaminant chemicals the farther they travel up the Atlantic coast, suggesting their northern feeding grounds in Florida have higher POP levels. The turtles likely consume the POPs when they eat contaminated prey such as crabs, the researchers said. One of the studies was published online April 20, 2011 in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, and the other will be published in a forthcoming issue of that journal.
Oro y Plata
Robotic insects? The jewelry of an ancient Egyptian queen? No, these bugs are the real thing: Two species of gold and silver beetle found in the rainforests of Costa Rica.
The reflective shells of Chrysina aurgians (gold) and Chrysina limbata (silver) may help the bugs blend into their damp, forest environment, which is studded with shimmering droplets of water. A new study published in the open-access journal Optical Materials Express finds that the beetles' shells are made of progressively thinner layers of the exoskeleton material chitin. As light passes back through each layer of chitin, the waves combine to become brighter and more intense, creating the glint of gold and silver.
According to study researchers, understanding the beetles' beauty may help scientists replicate it -- creating metallic-looking materials out of organic ingredients.
It's not hard to imagine where these moon jellies got their name. As delicate as they look, jellies are tough: They've been around for 600 million years, predating sharks and surviving multiple mass extinctions, including the one that killed the dinosaurs.
What makes jellies such survivors? Unlike fish, they're able to absorb oxygen directly through their bodies, storing it in their tissues so they can hunt in deep waters. Baby jellies can develop from swimming larvae directly into adults, but they often settle down and turn into polyps. Polyps can go dormant if conditions get bad, survive months without food, and even clone themselves.
If you think gestating one baby is tough, try 3,000. The squid Gonatus onyx carries around her brood of 2,000 to 3,000 eggs for up to nine months. The squid moms have their arms full: While carrying their eggs, they're stuck swimming with their fins and mantle instead of their much more effective arms.
So why would G. onyx take such care of its thousands of offspring? According to a 2005 study published in the journal Nature, the squid carry their eggs to deep water, where predators are rare. The deep-sea offspring are also larger and more capable of survival than shallow water squid -- thanks, mom!
Snow-White Penguin Chick
Not all emperor penguins sport black-and-white tuxedoes. Scripps reseacher Gerald Kooyman spotted this unique all-white emperor chick, dubbed Snowflake, during a penguin survey on the ice shelf of the Ross Sea, Antarctica, in December 1997.
Its white feathers blended in so well with the icy background that Kooyman said he almost missed the chick – emperor penguin chicks are usually covered in a grayish down coat, with dark tail feathers and dark bills and feet.
Scientists don't think Snowflake is an albino, however, as it didn't have the characteristic pink eyes associated with albinism. [Here's a Scripps video of Snowflake]
What Big Paws You Have
A researcher examines the paws of a sedated polar bear in this 1982 photograph taken in Alaska. Polar bears' giant paw pads help them keep traction on ice and snow.
Hitch a Ride on a Dragonfly
A close-up look at a dead dragonfly found in Georgia revealed this miniature hanger-on. The tiny insect seen in this scanning electron microscope image may have been a dragonfly parasite. Or the bug could be nothing more than debris picked up by the dragonfly on its travels.
Even in the chilliest water, life can thrive. This Antarctic ice fish, photographed during an Alfred Wegener Institute Polarstern mission, has no red blood cells or red blood pigments. The adaption makes the fish's blood thinner, saving energy that would otherwise be needed to pump the blood around the body.
This shy-looking critter is an inhabitant of Antarctica first found during the research vessel Polarstern's ANTXXIII-8 cruise. Found in water near Antarctica's Elephant Island, the arthropod is about 1 inch (25 mm) long.