Happy Friday everybody!

Take a breather you have all survived to the end of the week, and to all those fellow UK dwellers we have all survived the winds of Hurricane Doris! It is the last Friday of February which can only mean one thing on the blog it is Friday Facts! It has been awhile I know but lets get back into it and I have gathered some awesome facts gathered from top science stories during the month of February, including one that is slightly disturbing - see if you can spot it. 

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Image Source

Image Source

Image Source

That is the end of Friday Facts all my lovely readers. Massive huge reminder to everybody! Follow me on twitter to keep up to date with any changes to the blog or any surprise posts, it is also a great way of asking me to do a post on something you would like to see featured. March 10th is a big day as the blogs website name will change more on that a little closer to the time, in the meantime have an awesome weekend...

Science in the City
Happy Valentines Day everyone!

There are 10,426 species of bird alive today. Some of nature's most intricate and astonishing courtship displays are carried out by avian species. However, Bowerbirds take female courtship to the next level.  Journey into the world of Bowerbirds this Valentine's day and find out how males will seek to impress their female not with jewellery - but with a bottle cap.  

There are 20 different species of Bowerbird, all of which are confined to the islands of Australia and New Guinea. Like many bird species, the males are the most exuberant and the females are fairly dull in comparison (image above). This is not accidental, this sexual dimorphism is partially explained by female mate choice, therefore, it is in the male's best interest to dress to impress. Male bowerbirds are famous for being nature’s most innovative bachelor pad engineer! A males bachelor pad goes a long way in determining whether or not he will be alone this Valentine’s Day.

Constructing an enticing love nest is not easy:

Bowerbird bachelor pads are known as bowers, and these constructions come in one of three forms it all depends on the species of Bowerbird (image below: Avenue, Display court or a Maypole). Female Bowerbirds are solo parents allowing the males to spend 80% of their day constructing their grand exhibits made from woven sticks and twigs.

Once completed it is up to the males to add their own decorative flair to entice the females. Interestingly, females from different species of Bowerbirds show preferences to certain colours and what better way to impress a female than for a male to decorate his bower in her favourite colour… how romantic. Males spend all year collecting coloured objects that he believes will impress her these have been shown to include bottle caps, pieces of plastic, glass, car keys, keyrings, spider webbing, colourful dead insect skeletons, shells and flowers. Flowers seem to be a universal gift to give to females and are the most common type of decoration seen in bowers.

In a study, male Satin Bowerbirds were given a choice of 70 species of flowers in various colours. Males were shown to be extremely picky with the bouquet of flowers they selected. Only 29 flower species made it to the bower, in which 7 made up 93% of floral decorations. The most common flower colours were blue and purple, whereas, orange, pinks and red were completely absent. So much for red being a romantic colour.
Could you guess what colour female Satin Bowerbirds love (image below)?

Female courtship is a multi-step process. The first stage of courtship involves the male removing himself from his bower, allowing for the bachelor pad to talk for itself. It is up to the female to assess whether or not the bower qualifies for the next stage. The decorations chosen by the individual male therefore, is of crucial importance. During the mating season, male rivalry gets fierce other these objects, each female only chooses one male for that season.  Males have been spotted stealing objects from rival bowers, and even going as far as Sabotage! Nature can be so scandalous but all is fair in love and war, right?  At the end of the day, beautifully decorated bowers get a male one step closer to his goal.
Courtship displays go a long way:
All courtship displays in birds have a flair for the dramatic and often involve feather-puffing, wing extension and even a little running, for bowerbirds this is often accompanied with a loud buzzing vocalisation. In fact, take a look at the video link below to see these males in action!
Now for any male that is reading this, I am not suggesting that you win a lady over by headbutting her chest. However, what you may have noticed is just how intense the courtship displays can be in Bowerbirds. Those movements used to entice females are the same movements used in male-male conflict, thereby running the risk of scaring away his potential lover. Female Bowerbirds have mastered a signal to let the males know when to crank up the intensity of his courtship allowing males to tailor their displays to each female's preference. If males are to be successful they have to be sure to read his females wishes.

A female's needs change with age:
As a woman on Valentine's day, I find myself comparing what I look for in a man (and his gifts LOL) today from when I was younger, needless to say, it’s changed. Females in the animal kingdom are not so different.
Coleman et al set out to investigate age biased preferences in female bowerbirds. The researchers provided a set number of bowers with extra decorations (known as the treatment bowers) and leaving others unmanipulated (the control bowers). They tested how many visits each bower got from females of different ages.
What they found was very interesting and mirrors aspects of our own society. Younger bowerbird females showed a strong mating preference towards males with heavily decorated bowers. However, older bowerbird females were not won over by the pretty objects offered to them, or the bachelor's decorative flair in his pad, they favoured males with the most intense courtship displays.
There you have it the pretty young things on the block select males for mating based on the objects used to decorate his love nest. Whereas decorated objects are not enough to woo a female above the age of three, males will have to work a little harder.
What have we learnt from today? Not every woman is the same and not so easily lifted off her feet. A word of caution to all those partners out there that forgot to order the rose bouquet early, although female bowerbirds are impressed with a collection of objects like plastic caps and so on, do not attempt to mimic all the male bowerbirds tricks… you may find yourself single again by the end of the night.
Now  I am off to celebrate not Valentine's day but Galentines (celebration of friendship). A night filled with pizza, ice cream and my squads favourite movies, whether they be romantic or not.
Until next week Friday my lovely readers have an amazing day whoever you choose to spend it with.

Science in the City

Hello, all my lovely readers!

My apologies for not posting last week but it was my birthday on the 2nd February and so in true London style, I stretched it out to a week of celebration! 
Amazing news also I am officially a ZSL Seasonal Presenter at London Zoo so come and visit me this summer and watch out for my twitter!
Now let's get our weekly dose of Science in the City!

Lurking in the very depths of wastewater is a predator that has bacterial infections running for the hills - Micavibrio aeruginosavorus. This predator is ‘the vampire’ bacteria. Micavibrio aeruginosavorus attaches to its prey externally and then leeches of the victim's nutrients. This parasitic predator could be our greatest biological weapon in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  Could this predatory species be our saving grace?

Micavibrio aeruginosavorus is a gram-negative obligate bacterial predator that feeds by being an ectoparasite (see image above: predator in yellow and bacteria in pink). Normally bacteria gain all their nutrients essential for survival and growth directly from their environment, however, this bacteria is unable to gain several proteins through either imports or their environment. Very similar to us in this manner, the only way to get the essential nutrients needed would be to consume others and gain it from them. M. aeruginosavorus kills its prey differently to other predatory bacteria such as Bdellovibrio bacterivorous. Bacteria from the Bdellovibrio genus bind to the surface of their victims and enter the periplasm of the bacteria, once inside Bdellovibrio consumes its prey’s nutrients and multiplies. When the preys nutrients have been exhausted, Bdellovibrio causes the bacteria to burst and moves onto its next victim. Micavibrio, on the other hand, kills its victims in a way that mirrors the sci-fi horrors of vampires. This predator attaches onto the surface of its victim and then ‘bleeds’ it dry!  This results in the ectoparasite growing in size.

Predatory bacteria have been shown to attack a wide range of bacteria, however, Micavibrio aeruginosavorus shows a strong preference to Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Bacteria from the Pseudomonas genus are known to cause infections of the blood as well as trigger pneumonia, as such infection can prove to be fatal. With the rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria, novel treatments must be explored.

A group of researchers evaluated the ability of M. aeruginosavorus to locate and destroy different strains of pathogenic bacteria. In order to test the effectiveness for this bacteria, they planted the M. aeruginosavorus on a ‘lawn’ of prey cells and then measured the ‘lytic halo’, this is the area where pathogenic bacteria is absent. Results looked promising when carried out on Petri dishes, however, when this treatment was carried out in animal models with the bacteria injected either intravenously or delivered via the respiratory system the results were not as promising.

A predators potential for avoiding a medical armageddon:

Using a natural predator as a way of dealing with prey populations is not new, in fact, it is being carried out on a regular basis - just on a larger scale. Predatory bacteria such as M.aeruginosavorus comes with some potential advantages if we could get it to work with us:

They are fussy eaters. Initially, this came as a problem as scientists preferred a predator that would ‘eat’ a wide range of bacteria as opposed to a specific species of bacteria.  However, this proves beneficial if these bacteria become a part of clinical practice. M. aeruginosavorus eats ‘pathogenic’ bacteria - bacteria that cause infections.  Not all bacteria is bad, in fact, without our healthy gut bacteria, things would go very, very wrong. Being a fussy eater means that our healthy gut bacteria are safe from being eaten.

A low and concentrated dose of a bacterial killer. Because species belonging to Micavibrio go straight for their selected prey species, a low initial dose would be all that is needed to rid the body of its bacterial infection.

Resistance, not such a problem. The relationship displayed by  M. aeruginosavorus and Pseudomonas aerguinosa, for instance, is a classic predatory-prey relationship. As a cause of this relationship resistance to being eaten is a lot trickier to evolve for the prey species because it is also in the predators best interest to evolve ways to get around it and eat them anyway!

Predators are determined to get to their food. In the case of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, this bacteria secretes a thick mucus that normally proves too great a barrier for antibiotics to penetrate, a barrier that is penetrated by M. aeruginosavorus.

In preparation for this post, I gathered sources of information from a range of sources and enjoyed reading through the comments left by other readers. One gentleman left a comment highlighting the similarities between using predatory bacteria and bacteriophages (image above). I remember my dad talking to me about this once before and decided to investigate further.

Bacteriophages are another type of bacterial predator but are not bacteria themselves they are actually viruses. These viruses invade a bacterial cell and disrupt the bacteria’s machinery eventually leading to cell death. These remarkable naturally occurring bacteria killers are able to penetrate much deeper to where the infection has spread and they stop replicating once they are no longer needed. Bacteriophages have been used in certain countries as a form of treatment since the Iron Curtain! As to why it is not available in the West could be due to things such as public reluctance to believe that a virus could be helpful, and there is actually no money to be made in pushing this forward.

Overall naturally occurring bacterial predators as a way of managing future bacterial infections is most definitely exciting. However, there is still a way to go before human trials could even be considered.

I hope you have all learned something today guys. Just to let you know keep an eye out for my post this Valentine's day! Next week's post will be published on Valentine's day and not Friday and I have a real treat for you romantics and bachelors!

Until next week you wonderful lot

Science in the City
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