Total Pageviews

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Birth Announcement! (No, not me)

So before I tell you more about histology, I have a very important announcement... My worms had babies! I found 5 of them altogether in the past two weeks. I had been finding cocoons for a while now but they take 3 MONTHS to develop and hatch and I was worried I was somehow killing the cocoons. Yes, I thought I was capable of killing cocoons that had evolved to be even more resistant to the enviornment than worms themselves. I'm just that good.
At first I wondered how popcorn kernels got in my worm bin... then I realized they were cocoons. Good thing I didn't eat them!

I was hoping they'd hatch by my birthday, but instead they waited a week. Don't they know I want my gifts ON my birthday, even if it's the gift of life? Stupid brainless inverts... Anyways, I opened my worm bin the other day and was doing my typical aerate soil/ cocoon scavenger hunt when I saw what looked like a tiny yellow mealworm...

I found even more and managed to capture a video of one moving with my iphone. Here is the vid:

I also took a video of a baby next to an adult for epic contrast!

This is the first organism I have ever taken care of that hasn't had a mass dieoff and has instead reproduced! And I only check on them once a week! I'm telling you, if you can make a career working with these guys it's totally awesome.

Your new mother,

The 'Dirty' Scientist

Monday, October 10, 2011

Histology (Part 1): Cutting, embedding, and staining dead @%$# since 1771

Hello, people, it's the post you've been waiting for...finding out WTF I do in lab besides dig around in a large dirt container full of live fish bait. Well, now that you know about muscles and hydrostatic skeletons (remember, the fluid filled structure surrounded by flesh and muscle, kind of like a pipe or an erect penis? I knew if I said penis it would come back to you!) I can tell you!

elbow joint pipes,industries,industry,pipes,plumbing
Worms, a living pipe

I am basically cutting up worms to look at worm's muscle and fluid filled skeleton to see how different variables affect these dimensions. As you may remember, the cross sectional area of muscle is proportional to force production, so if I know how big worm's muscles are I can predict how much force that worm can produce. If I know how large the fluid filled skeleton is, I can guess how much stress the skeletal fluid is putting on the muscles and body wall that surround it, kind of like how much stress pipe walls have when they are filled with water. You can imagine if the muscles are under a lot of stress, the worm may not want to contractthem too hard or else the pressure in the fluid cavity will increase, increasing the stress on the muscles, potentially making the worm burst! I accidentally did this once... I normally use a 10% ethanol, 90% water solution to drug my worms before I cut them and one time I forgot to add the water and put the worm in a 100% ethanol solution and it seized up all of its muscles and blood started spurting out because the worm's body wall was under so much pressure it burst...kind of like a pipe wall under too much water pressure. Or kind of like an aneurysm in your blood vessels, which I nearly had when I realized what I did. Oops!

So, how do I look at these dimensions? I use what is called histology. You know when you were in high school and looked at stained microscope slides of skin cells or protists or whatever? That is the end product of histology. All you really do is kill the thing you want (don't cry for my worms, they have got to a better place where they can have all the moist dirt they'd ever need), cut up the part you want to look at, embed it in something hard to make cutting it easier, slice it up, put your slices on a slide, and stain them. The end product is something much more colorful and aesthetically pleasing than the live critter you were looking at, and it makes it easy to tell different tissue types apart, like muscle in my case.

So here is the first part on how I kill and slice earthworms. I'll show you the rest next time!

Here is a pic of a drugged earthworm in 10% ethanol. Sorry, I did not take a pic of the exploding worm, I was too busy freaking out.
He/she is so wasted right now.

Here is a pic of my mad scientist worm cutting station. Basically what I do is cut the worm into pieces, then I will cut the pieces further to get specific segments, and I will measure and compare these segments to other earthworms. I have been looking at segments 10, 20, and 30 (starting at the head) in worms because these segments can be different from each other down the length of the worm and segments in the first half of the worm are the most important for movement and burrowing. The tail of the worm is basically dragged along when the worm moves, so I focus on the front half of the worm.

See the jars? That is where the worm parts go, yum!

I then weigh and measure the worm and plop him on the 'surgery table'. You can see the worm is limp and motionless from being drugged and I promise he/she didn't suffer (at least not nearly as much as a worm on a hook!).

RIP: Wormy. 
 The last step is to cut the worm into pieces and out the pieces in jars. I actually go back the next day and slice the pieces into the specific segments I want. Now I have the worm pieces I need to embed the worms in plastic!
Worm heads in jars, the next must have for the fall season.

You can see I cut the head even more so now I just have the segment I want.

Hope you enjoyed my worm murdering, stay tuned for embedding, cutting, and dying worm parts! I know you can't wait!

Your favorite mad scientist,

The 'Dirty' Scientist.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Muscle Pop Quiz!

As I put together my awesome worm stuff for my next blog entry I thought I'd fill the time with a pop quiz on muscles! There is only one question and if you get it wrong then the only logical conclusion is you don't know enough about muscles and therefore must have puny guns. Yeah, I'm pretty good at logic problems.

Ready? Don't cheat!

#1. What kind of muscle does Phil the dog mostly have based on the video below... Type I or type II muscle? HINT: This video was taken AFTER a 30 minute run...seriously...

If you said Type II then I am afraid you are incorrect and thus a weenie. Now go do some bench presses before your muscles atrophy!

You can also note here that my dog has no concept of low friction surfaces. He runs into walls more often than is healthy for his doggy brain.