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Archive for Monday, December 14, 2009

KU’s monarchs in space die a week after emerging

December 14, 2009

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In the end, Kansas University’s adult monarch butterflies died after a week of fluttering about in a small container aboard the International Space Station.

Not bad, says KU’s Chip Taylor, director of the Monarch Watch program, after the last of the butterflies died late Friday night.

“They survived and did remarkably well, considering the disadvantages they were having up there in space,” he said of the insects whose normal adult life span is two to four weeks in the spring and summer.

As hundreds of classrooms followed along back on Earth — all conducting their own control experiments back home — they saw the butterflies overcome several challenges.

In just one example, all three butterflies came out of a chrysalis that was floating in mid-air after it became detached from the sides of the habitat.

Taylor said that throughout the four-week experiment, the question he heard most often was “Why?”

The experiment helped introduce children across the country to the difficulties of life in space, he said, and revealed interesting new information about the monarchs’ gravity dependence.

“It does appear that monarchs have a gravitational sense,” Taylor said. “The question is where is it and how does it work?”

The monarchs struggled to find a center of gravity. For caterpillars that naturally want to move upward, an environment that presented no clear “upward” direction proved confusing, Taylor said. A lack of gravity also contributed to the insects’ struggle to naturally expand their wings, he said.

Taylor said the coordination with schools was mostly successful, and may lead into further cooperation. With a specially-designed artificial diet now proven effective, Taylor said the program may expand into inner-city schools, many of which had problems finding milkweed in the past.

The plant is the only naturally occurring food that monarch caterpillars will eat.

“This definitely is a boost for our program going forward,” Taylor said.

Photos and video of the experiment are still available online at monarchwatch.org/space — a site that will continue to be updated over the next few days with more complete results of the experiment, Taylor said.

Comments

Boston_Corbett 5 years ago

What? Those itty-bitty space suits not work?

avaholic 5 years ago

I love the comment Keith. Doctor Girlfriend will be crushed.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 5 years ago

I'm also wondering what practical application we will derive from this. Surely there are more important questions we can solve with our space shuttles and space station than "do butterflies care about gravity?"

riverdrifter 5 years ago

I heard they all left suicide notes as well. Something about having to go practices with Mark Mangino as their coach.

parrothead8 5 years ago

OldEnuf2BYurDad (Anonymous) says… I'm also wondering what practical application we will derive from this. Surely there are more important questions we can solve with our space shuttles and space station than “do butterflies care about gravity?”

Agreed. We should only study practical things, such as "the dificulties of life in space." Projects that merely serve to interest children in science are silly, and nothing will come from such drivel. I'm pretty sure it's a scientific fact that ALL scientific advancements throughout history resulted only from experiments that were deemed 100% practical at the time, and performed by 100% practical people.

Bladerunner 5 years ago

I'd like to know how they could tell a caterpiller was "confused". The usually brainiac caterpillers just weren't quite themselves?

bearded_gnome 5 years ago

Taylor said the coordination with schools was mostly successful, and may lead into further cooperation. With a specially-designed artificial diet now proven effective, Taylor said the program may expand into inner-city schools, many of which had problems finding milkweed in the past.

---Bunk! it was the Tang what done 'em in!

GardenMomma 5 years ago

If you go to the website and watch the videos, you can tell the caterpillars are confused and so is the butterfly that hatched. You can see it's struggling to figure out how to walk and spread it's wings.

There's one point where it has it's chrysalis remains and it's just standing on it and it tries to walk but it just spins the remains around. Kind of sad, really.

notajayhawk 5 years ago

Bladerunner (Anonymous) says…

"I'd like to know how they could tell a caterpiller was “confused”.

There were numerous spelling errors in the afore-mentioned suicide notes.

1029 5 years ago

I have a feeling that some of these butterflies may still be alive, and that we may see them again someday when they return. My guess is that Taylor is afraid of creating panic here on Earth if he tells us the truth about what is really going on up there in space.

spiff 5 years ago

this sounds like the beginning of a megasnore scifi flick

Frederic Gutknecht IV 5 years ago

A rat done bit my butterflyl. (with Whitey on the moon) Her face and arms began to die. (and Whitey's on the moon) I can't pay its doctor bill. (but Whitey's on the moon) Ten years from now I'll be payin' still. (while Whitey's on the moon) The man jus' upped my rent las' night. ('cause Whitey's on the moon) No hot water, no toilets, no lights. (but Whitey's on the moon) I wonder why he's uppi' me? ('cause Whitey's on the moon?) I wuz already payin' 'im fifty a week. (with Whitey on the moon) Taxes takin' my whole damn check, Junkies makin' me a nervous wreck, The price of food is goin' up, An' as if all that schist wuzn't enough: A rat done bit my butterfly. (with Whitey on the moon) Her face an' arm began to die. (but Whitey's on the moon) Was all that money I made las' year (for Whitey on the moon?) How come there ain't no money here? (Hmm! Whitey's on the moon) Y'know I jus' 'bout had my fill (of Whitey on the moon) I think I'll sen' these doctor bills, Airmail special (to Whitey on the moon)

George_Braziller 5 years ago

The practical application is that butterflies and bees are primary pollinators of plants which produce food for humans. If you are wanting to establish a space station "farm" in zero gravity you have to know if the pollinators can do their part.

OldEnuf2BYurDad (Anonymous) says… I'm also wondering what practical application we will derive from this. Surely there are more important questions we can solve with our space shuttles and space station than “do butterflies care about gravity?”

Lulu 5 years ago

This is an abdomination against all animals, to torture a defenseless little animal and let it suffer and die while filming it's agony. A snuff film of butterflies. Who heard the tiny screams of these defenseless insects? I care little caterpillars and butterflies, I care. This is another reason why I don't drifve a car because I do not like the animal and insect fodder adorning my windshield it makes me sick. These insects are the caretakers of plant life on spacesship Mother earth and they need to be treated with respect and nurtured for their nurturing ways. It as if I have this giant caterpillar deep inside me that needs to be let loose so my butterfly is free to fly, fly away, bye, bye.

I must cry.

somedude20 5 years ago

I guess that I am one of the few who likes to exercise his Captain Kirk by watching butterflie snuff films. Can not wait for it to be on dvd with bonus material.

Ricky_Vaughn 5 years ago

snap_pop_no_crackle (Anonymous) says…

Calling Mothra….

LMAO! I bet Mothra's gonna be pi$$ed when (he/she?) finds out.

notajayhawk 5 years ago

George_Braziller (Anonymous) says…

"If you are wanting to establish a space station “farm” in zero gravity you have to know if the pollinators can do their part."

1) And we'd want to do that - why, again?

2) Planetbound pollen can't get from one plant to the next without being carried. In zero-G, the pollen can float around freely.

George_Braziller 5 years ago

Uhhhhhhh ......... do you actually read anything before you type?

sad_lawrencian 5 years ago

This was a really stupid program at KU. I feel sorry for the butterflies, and I'm surprised the animal rights activists aren't saying something about this.

bearded_gnome 5 years ago

heck, Obama killed a fly on camera and PETA did object.

so, are they flycentric? prejudiced against moths?

LMAO! I bet Mothra's gonna be pi$$ed when (he/she?) finds out.

--why, Mothra Stewart Living is still on the air, I can't imagine Mothra Stewart getting upset about the deaths of these, though she'd figure out how to make homemade doileys out of them. or, how to decorate your table silverware with their pictures... no, Mothra Stewart won't be pi$$ed off, she'll just make more money.

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