Tag Archives: Biology

Episode 4 – Cleaning up space junk, crystal armored ants & get moving

Featured in this episode:

Space Junk and the mission to clean it up

The European Space Agency has embarked on a noble mission to clean up Earth orbit with the help of a start-up based in Switzerland.

Crystal-armored ants

Leaf-cutter ants have crystal armor in their exoskeleton thanks to evolution

Doing more exercise to fight off the ill-health effects of sitting

WHO has come out with a recommendation to address the growing health concerns from having a sedentary lifestyle.

Episode 3: Stopping the pandemic, rapid tests & social spiders

Featured in this episode:

What have been the most effective method in stopping COVID-19 spread

Stopping the spread of COVID-19 involves layers of methods coming together in unison

Frequent & rapid testing can help stop the pandemic in weeks

Early detection of those who have the virus, isolating or treating would speed up the victory against the pandemic

Social spiders

Spider colonies do exist and it’s remarkable!

Episode 2: Mosquitoes, dog heaven, and the dark secrets of pet cloning

Featured in this episode:

Mosquitoes can learn to avoid humans that swat

A clever way on how mosquitoes improve their chances of survival by remembering which humans to avoid

How mosquitoes distinguish between blood and nectar

Only the female mosquito bites as it needs blood to lay eggs while their male counterparts feed mainly only nectar. Now we know how a mosquito tells one food source from the other.

Do all dogs go to heaven? Tracking human-animal relationships through the archaeological survey of pet cemeteries

Not only do we believe in life after death for pets, we also think they go to the same heaven as we do.

The ugly & cruel side of cloning pets

Genetics and cloning technology has given pet lovers the chance to have their pets back among the living. However, it usually comes at a heavy price.

Scientific names of Vegetables in Bahay Kubo

Most Filipinos grew up learning the song “Bahay Kubo” (Nipa Hut) as it’s one of the staples of folk songs taught to children. Remembering all the vegetables mentioned in the lyrics is often given as a trivia challenge especially to adults just to test how well they still know the song. Being able to list all is already an amazing feat.

A more difficult challenge, even for geeks, is knowing the scientific names of each vegetable. I remember kicking off our Taxonomy class with this homework back in college and it was quite a daunting yet fun challenge.

So to help out anyone, call it a public service, I share to you a table of all the vegetables in the song “Bahay Kubo” along with its respective scientific name.

Filipino nameEnglish nameScientific name
SingkamasJicamaPachyrrizus erosus
TalongEggplantSolanum melongena
SigarilyasWinged beanPsophocarpus tetragonolobus
ManiPeanutArachis hypogaea
SitawString beansPhaseolus vulgaris
BatawHyacinth beanDolichos lablab
PataniLima beanPhaseolus lunatus
KundolWinter melonBenincasa hispida
PatolaAngled luffa/Chinese okraLuffa acutangula
UpoBottle gourdLagenaria siceraria
KalabasaSquashCucurbita maxima
LabanosRadishRaphanus sativus
MustasaMustardBrassica juncea
SibuyasOnionAllium cepa
KamatisTomatoLycopersicum esculentum
BawangGarlicAllium sativum
LuyaGingerZingiber officinale
LingaSesame seedSesamum indicum

The basic rule for writing a scientific name

  1. Use both genus and species name: Felis catus.
  2. Italicize the whole name.
  3. Capitalize only the genus name. (In the past you would capitalize the species designation if it was derived from a proper name, e.g., Megalonyx Jeffersonii, but now the species designation is always lowercased: Megalonyx jeffersonii.)

Hope this helps!

A kiss you would not want again

While choosing whether to write a commentary about the latest election-related murder in Bacoor, Cavite or something about solar energy, my attention was distracted by a persistent itch on my left elbow.

Thinking it was an ant or a mosquito; I brushed it aside and went on reading. Everything stopped when after feeling a sting on my elbow and turning to have a look, I saw a black insect crawl away in haste. It had been underneath my elbow all the while and the source of the itchy stings as it had little sips of my blood. Alarms went off inside my mind as I seemed to have recognized the fugitive insect.

After a frantic search under the couch, I found it and after a good look my fears were confirmed, it was a kissing bug! 

Triatoma rubida
Triatoma rubida” by nmoorhatch is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Triatoma rubida belongs to a group of insects which are also known as conenose bugskissing bugsassassin bugs or triatomines. Most of the 130 or more species of this subfamily are haematophagous, which means they feed on vertebrate blood, which tonight was my blood. They are mostly found in the Americas with a few species found in Asia, Africa and Australia.

Among the common names of this bug, the one that strikes me and most other people the most would be “kissing bug.” This is derived from its feeding habit in which the bug comes out at night, visits your bedroom and crawls up to your face, which is usually the only exposed part of your body while you are asleep and uses its long thin proboscis to draw blood near your mouth. This is because the insect is attracted by chemicals in our breath.

If you think that was dreadful enough, here is something worse; after the kissing bug has bloated itself with your blood, it does its nasty habit of defecating near the site of the bite. Their feces contain the flagellate protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi which enters the body through the bite wound once it is scratched or it is rubbed into the eyelids. Once inside the protozoan causes Chagas disease.

Just what is Chagas disease? It’s an infection caused by the T. cruzi parasite and it has two phases:

the acute phase and the chronic phase. Both phases can be symptom-free or life-threatening.

The acute phase lasts for the first few weeks or months of infection. It usually occurs unnoticed because it is symptom-free or exhibits only mild symptoms and signs that are not unique to Chagas disease. The symptoms noted by the patient can include fever, fatigue, body aches, headache, rash, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting. The signs on physical examination can include mild enlargement of the liver or spleen, swollen glands, and local swelling (a chagoma) where the parasite enters the body. The most recognized marker of acute Chagas disease is called Romaña’s sign, which includes swelling of the eyelids on the side of the face near the bite wound or where the bug feces were deposited or accidentally rubbed into the eye. Even if symptoms develop during the acute phase, they usually fade away on their own, within a few weeks or months. Although the symptoms resolve, the infection, if untreated, persists. Rarely, do young children (<5%) die from severe inflammation/infection of the heart muscle (myocarditis) or brain (meningoencephalitis). The acute phase also can be severe in people with weakened immune systems.

During the chronic phase, the infection may remain silent for decades or even for life. However, some people develop:

  • cardiac complications, which can include an enlarged heart (cardiomyopathy), heart failure, altered heart rate or rhythm, and cardiac arrest (sudden death); and/or
  • intestinal complications, which can include an enlarged esophagus (megaesophagus) or colon (megacolon) and can lead to difficulties with eating or with passing stool.

The average life-time risk of developing one or more of these complications is about 30%.

Though the disease is generally endemic to Mexico and Southern American countries, large-scale human movement has brought the disease in other countries worldwide. And to be honest, I am a bit worried.

As far as I can remember, this is the first time I’ve been bitten by a kissing bug though I’ve seen a couple lurking around in our house in the last three years. Each one I’ve crushed on the spot.

According to what I’ve read and know so far and basing on my first-hand experience, I have a very low risk of contracting Chagas disease based on the following circumstances:

I was bitten at the elbow, far away from my mouth or eyes

The kissing bug never engorged itself with my blood as it never had the chance to have a good sip because my arm always moved about every time I felt a sting, and

Since it never had a ‘full meal’ it didn’t have the chance to defecate on my skin thereby preventing it from leaving behind its dangerous load of Trypanosoma cruzi parasites.

Lastly, my research has shown that the types of kissing bugs here in the Philippines are not known for being vectors or carriers of Chagas disease.

But since I’m no medical doctor, the only way to be sure is to undergo blood tests and a medical checkup. Something I’m seriously considering if the itch from my elbow doesn’t go away after four days.

Hopefully, my very low chances of contracting Chagas disease stay that way. As of now though, I have officially declared war on the kissing bugs and will hunt each one that dares to enter our house.