I wish I could remember who first tweeted yesterday (addendum: see, below, it was Bora Zivkovic) about this fantastic video containing 1,500 photos of a cicada nymph emerging from its exoskeleton and maturing over a 7.5 hour period. Scientifically, these are called the Brood XIX Periodical Cicadas (brood table at Wikipedia here). The aptly- titled Cicada Mania site has a nice primer on these lovely 13-year insects whose sound is driving some Southerners batty about this time of year. In fact, I may have to purchase this shirt from their CafePress store.
The genius behind the images is Mark Dolejs, a Durham, NC-based freelance photographer who was decorated with many regional and national photography awards during his career with the city’s Herald-Sun newspaper. Mark’s photo site contains much of his new and concert photography – readers outside of North Carolina would recognize Mark’s shot of then presidential candidate Barack Obama shooting hoops with UNC men’s basketball players during the 2008 campaign.
After showing this to the 8-year-old PharmKid last night, we came up with two questions:
1. What is the stimulus for the program that drives such a relatively rapid maturation of the cicada once it emerges from its exoskeleton?
2. A very common question: how does an organism operate on a 13-year life cycle. Trees have an annual gene expression program influenced by temperature and the length of day. How in the heck is a 13-year gene expression program maintained.
I can tell that I’m going to have to take a break from grantwriting today to peruse the entomology literature.
Update: I should have known – I was reminded that I first learned of this video from circadian biologist and Scientific American blog network editor, Bora Zivkovic. In fact, Bora posted yesterday on the difficulty in studying the regulation of this long peridocity – at his own blog, A Blog Around The Clock, and then in a form edited by Charles Quoi at the Scientific American guest blog.