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#17623 - 01/12/07 09:50 PM The Emerald Cockroach Wasp
Blacknad Offline
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Registered: 10/05/05
Posts: 901
Loc: Coventry, England
Over at Uncommon Descent:

The emerald cockroach wasp (Ampulex compressa, also known as the jewel wasp) is a parasitoid wasp of the family Ampulicidae. It is known for its reproductive behavior, which involves using a live cockroach (specificially a Periplaneta americana) as a host for its larva. A number of other venomous animals which use live food for their larvae paralyze their prey. Unlike them, Ampulex compressa initially leaves the cockroach mobile, but modifies its behaviour in a unique way.

As early as the 1940s it was published that wasps of this species sting a roach twice, which modifies the behavior of the prey. A recent study using radioactive labeling proved that the wasp stings precisely into specific ganglia. Ampulex compressa delivers an initial sting to a thoracic ganglion of a cockroach to mildly paralyze the front legs of the insect. This facilitates the second sting at a carefully chosen spot in the cockroach?s head ganglia (brain), in the section that controls the escape reflex. As a result of this sting, the cockroach will now fail to produce normal escape responses.

The wasp, which is too small to carry the cockroach, then drives the victim to the wasp?s den, by pulling one of the cockroach?s antennae in a manner similar to a leash. Once they reach the den, the wasp lays an egg on the cockroach?s abdomen and proceeds to fill in the den?s entrance with pebbles, more to keep other predators out than to keep the cockroach in.

The stung cockroach, its escape reflex disabled, will simply rest in the den as the wasp?s egg hatches. A hatched larva chews its way into the abdomen of the cockroach and proceeds to live as an endoparasitoid. Over a period of eight days, the wasp larva consumes the cockroach?s internal organs in an order which guarantees that the cockroach will stay alive, at least until the larva enters the pupal stage and forms a cocoon inside the cockroach?s body. After about four weeks, the fully-grown wasp will emerge from the cockroach?s body to begin its adult life.

The wasp is common in tropical regions (Africa, India and the Pacific islands), and has been introduced to Hawaii by F. X. Williams in 1941 as a method of biocontrol. This was unsuccessful because of the territorial tendencies of the wasp, and the small scale on which they hunt.


Imagine, if you will, how a wasp evolved the ability to perform brain surgery complete with a drug that turns a cockroach into a docile zombie it can lead around like a dog on a leash. I emphasize the word imagine because any story you come up with is a work of fiction. Such fiction is the basis of the Theory of Evolution.


Any comments?


Blacknad

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#17624 - 01/12/07 10:19 PM Re: The Emerald Cockroach Wasp [Re: Blacknad]
TheFallibleFiend Offline
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Registered: 06/08/05
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Loc: http://thefalliblefiend.blogsp...
I saw the article and the first thing that occurred to me was a quote from Darwin in The Descent of Man:

"It has often and confidently been asserted, that man's origin can never be known: but ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science."

The implicit argument that DaveScot is making is that this is so impossibly complex that it could not possibly have evolved. I don't know whether evolutionary scientists have thought this one through, but I do know that this argument is not a good one.

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#17626 - 01/12/07 10:26 PM Re: The Emerald Cockroach Wasp [Re: TheFallibleFiend]
TheFallibleFiend Offline
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Registered: 06/08/05
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FTR, DaveScot's argument here is the equivalent of my sneeringly pointing out how some celestial object has an orbit that appears off based on what I personally read on the subject and then concluding that Newton's Laws were wrong.

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#17628 - 01/12/07 11:02 PM Re: The Emerald Cockroach Wasp [Re: TheFallibleFiend]
DA Morgan Offline
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Registered: 10/17/04
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The assumption implicit in using this as an example of how evolution could not possibly be correct is old and tired. It is basically the following:

"I will find something too complex for you to explain, TODAY, and propose it as an argument that you can not refute, TODAY."

And in that sense it is as good, or as bad, as all before it.

But lets take a seriously look at the weakness of this approach. The most obvious failing is that it assumes, as you did, that the wasp knowingly performs delicate brain surgery which it would seem is ridiculous.

Now I have this wonderful house cat who thinks he is a leopard. If he is in a playful mood he will lunge at the back of my leg and use his front-paw to try to knock me over. Sometimes he will even try to sever my achilles tendon with a playful bite. Does he know about how leopards bring down antelope? No. Does he know how the achilles tendon works? No. Did he go to attack-cat training classes? No. Is his behaviour mysterious or hard to understand? No again. He is playing a built-in attack program that worked for his ancestors. And those that had it survived and reproduced while those that stung the cockroach elsewhere did not fare as well.

One would have to know the behaviour of this particular wasp-cockroach food chain over the past 100,000,000 years to understand the snapshot you observe today. But I can assure you that those wasps that don't get it right don't pass their genetic program into the next generation of wasps.
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#17629 - 01/13/07 12:33 AM Re: The Emerald Cockroach Wasp [Re: DA Morgan]
Blacknad Offline
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Registered: 10/05/05
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Loc: Coventry, England
Originally Posted By: DA Morgan
But lets take a seriously look at the weakness of this approach. The most obvious failing is that it assumes, as you did, that the wasp knowingly performs delicate brain surgery which it would seem is ridiculous.


Dan,

I certainly didn't assume the wasp knows what it is doing. I just thought that it does seem counter-intuitive that this relationship could arise without direction. It really is an incredible process.

Cheers Gents.

Blacknad.

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#17631 - 01/13/07 12:57 AM Re: The Emerald Cockroach Wasp [Re: Blacknad]
Ellis Offline
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Registered: 01/08/07
Posts: 1490
Loc: Australia
So Blacknad, you think that someone is training, or has trained a little wasp to perform an heroic (if disgusting) feat on another insect whilst all around choas reigns!! It would be simpler to believe in Intelligent Design (or whatever) if it were in fact intelligent. This amazing process with the wasp arose as a response to the main reason we are here- to replicate ourselves into the next generation. The way these wasps function took years of evolution, it is this complexity that seems to argue against intention. Why design something so hideously complicated that requires a whole heap of seemingly random actions to occur when it could all be so much simpler, and surely would have been if it had been planned with intent? There is no Planner it is all random/choas.

Incidentally why is the Trainer/Designer so anti-cockroach. Did he/she/it not design that poor creature too?

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#17633 - 01/13/07 12:59 AM Re: The Emerald Cockroach Wasp *DELETED* *DELETED* [Re: Blacknad]
Ellis Offline
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Loc: Australia
Post deleted by Amaranth Rose II

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#17635 - 01/13/07 01:45 AM Re: The Emerald Cockroach Wasp [Re: Ellis]
DA Morgan Offline
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Registered: 10/17/04
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Loc: Seattle, WA
Blacknad wrote:
"I just thought that it does seem counter-intuitive that this relationship could arise without direction"

You are absolutely correct. It is counter-intuitive. But only so long as you assume that one day the wasps were flying around stinging rocks and the next day they started stinging cockroaches in this particular way.

Lets look at it from another perspective. One day 100,000,000 years ago the wasps were stinging cockroaches in any place they wished and laying their eggs. And lets assume that 5.000000% of the wasp eggs hatched and the wasps survived to adulthood.

Now lets assume that 0.001% of the time the wasps stung the roach at the correct location, laid their eggs on the body, and the wasps survival rate went up to 5.000001% because it was more likely the larvae would do better on a live roach.

Over 100,000,000 years want to guess which wasp behavior will predominate today?

Good guess. ;-)
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#17637 - 01/13/07 03:28 AM Re: The Emerald Cockroach Wasp [Re: DA Morgan]
Blacknad Offline
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Registered: 10/05/05
Posts: 901
Loc: Coventry, England
Ellis,

I heard you the first time smile

And you have both misunderstood and misrepresented me. But no hard feelings. And BTW, are cockroaches unhappy with their lot?

Dan,

Point well made.

Blacknad.


Edited by Blacknad (01/13/07 03:29 AM)

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#17642 - 01/13/07 07:12 AM Re: The Emerald Cockroach Wasp [Re: Blacknad]
terrytnewzealand Offline
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Registered: 08/02/06
Posts: 1031
Loc: Whangarei New Zealand
Blacknad. The idea that the earth moves around the sun is also counter-intuitive. In fact it's so obviously not true that I've just joined the Flat-Earth Society.

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#17664 - 01/14/07 06:44 AM Re: The Emerald Cockroach Wasp [Re: terrytnewzealand]
Ellis Offline
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Registered: 01/08/07
Posts: 1490
Loc: Australia
Sorry about the double posts- something goes wrong between me and the computer (well doesn't it always?).

Thanks DA for the explanatin. It's a good one and going by the rule of Occam's Razor ie the simplest explanation is usually the best, I prefer to believe in random selection/ evolution rather than the unlikely event of some supreme being making sure wasps learn how to lead cockroaches to their doom in order to impregnate them. Besides isn't good design supposed to ,be simple design, ie the most efficient? Selection wins hands down!

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#17666 - 01/14/07 07:17 PM Re: The Emerald Cockroach Wasp [Re: Ellis]
DA Morgan Offline
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Registered: 10/17/04
Posts: 4136
Loc: Seattle, WA
Thanks Ellis.

If there was a supreme being who put all this together one might reasonably ask "what was the point in intentionally creating a situation in which a cockroach is set up to be the victim of such horror." If one makes this situation the result of a conscious act it would be as cruel as could be imagined. An entity that intentionally created this situation might reasonably be asked if there was not some more humane solution. And we all know the answer is a resounding: Yes!
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DA Morgan

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#17686 - 01/15/07 06:57 PM Re: The Emerald Cockroach Wasp [Re: DA Morgan]
Blacknad Offline
Superstar

Registered: 10/05/05
Posts: 901
Loc: Coventry, England
Originally Posted By: DA Morgan
Thanks Ellis.

If there was a supreme being who put all this together one might reasonably ask "what was the point in intentionally creating a situation in which a cockroach is set up to be the victim of such horror." If one makes this situation the result of a conscious act it would be as cruel as could be imagined. An entity that intentionally created this situation might reasonably be asked if there was not some more humane solution. And we all know the answer is a resounding: Yes!


Anthropomorphism alert.

Who knows what a cockroach experiences and feels about it?

Goto:

http://www.miketheheadlesschicken.org/story.html

and see how Mike the Chicken felt for a year and a half after losing his head, less his brain stem and one ear. Didn't seem too troubled.

The best philosophers cannot yet decide whether an animal like a cockroach can actually 'suffer' in any meaningful sense...

...but because it suits your purposes, then it's a 'HORROR'.

Just because it has a big Yuch! factor from a human perspective, it doesn't actually follow that it is cruel.

Blacknad.

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#17691 - 01/15/07 08:16 PM Re: The Emerald Cockroach Wasp [Re: Blacknad]
DA Morgan Offline
Megastar

Registered: 10/17/04
Posts: 4136
Loc: Seattle, WA
Blacknad wrote:
"Who knows what a cockroach experiences and feels about it?"

Good call.

Except then you write:

"The best philosophers cannot yet decide whether an animal like a cockroach can actually 'suffer' in any meaningful sense..."

Philosophers? Who gives a rip about philosophers? Lets examine the facts. The article states: "its escape reflex disabled" so one might reasonably ask why the cockroach might wish to escape the situation given your assumptions.

However I would invite you to reread your words. Is it morally acceptable to torture those who we, in our infinite wisdom, determine won't 'suffer in any meaningful sense'? You might wish to reconsider the implications of your words.

You are correct about the yuch factor not equating with cruelty. But surely you must agree that if there is a deity that created the universe and all life ... that what we observe must be the intention of the creator and that therefore we should worship it as a divinely inspired work of god. I doubt you'll find much support for that, however, from the Church of England.
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DA Morgan

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