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Cannibalism - Ophiophagy

Discussion in 'Other Spiders & Arachnids' started by The Snark, Dec 2, 2019.

  1. The Snark

    The Snark هرج و مرج مهندس Old Timer

    1. I caught the very tail end of this discussion.
    2. The discussion was almost entirely populated by scientists, notably geneticists.

    That being said, so much for heaps of salient info from this front.

    Ophiophagy has at least 5 significant benefits in animal offspring.
    -First and foremost it provides nutrients that the digestive system is oriented towards. Similar to breast milk in mammals
    -It confers resistances to diseases, both short and long term. Cancer was mentioned several times. Very technical jargon here
    -It can fill in gaps missing in the DNA. More technical jargon.
    -It can enforce positive genetic traits. Still more.
    -It introduces stimulation of the immune system similar to vaccinations. Clear as thick mud unless you have a PhD in immunology.
    The last one went way over my head. Something about neurological development augmentation.

    And... call this a teaser. That's about all I picked up on. Food for thought, pardon the expression.
    Oh yes, pseudo ophiophagy. This was all about specifically eating siblings.
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  2. Arthroverts

    Arthroverts Arachnoprince Active Member

    So they were discussing invertebrate cannibalism/ophiophagy (BTW that word is defined as "the eating of snakes") and it's benefits? I'm somewhat confused, and I missed all the technical jargon...

    Thanks for sharing,

  3. The Snark

    The Snark هرج و مرج مهندس Old Timer

    Yups. Blame my brain and a raging cold. And cannibalism refers to eating human flesh. Invertophagy? I wish I had been there at the beginning and was on top of it. IE full of coffee. But maybe some people can toss additional info onto this thread?

    The discussion was among the experts that are involved in studying tropical diseases. That little topic alone could eat 10 years of your life in an assortment of universities. They have concluded at best they have discovered an estimated 15% of the diseases found in the tropics and have fully described less than 1%.
    An offshoot of that topic is the widely varying immune systems relative to the same biological antagonists.

    I can't find the quote so pardon the paraphrasing: "At any given time the average human could have several hundred diseases. Most are benign, some are beneficial, some detrimental, and most interact with the immune system and subsequently each other. Consider a very ornate tapestry of innumerable different fabrics woven together."
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2019
  4. Arthroverts

    Arthroverts Arachnoprince Active Member

    I hope you recover speedily!
    Cannibalism can refer to a member eating another member of the same species. But I won't get into an argument over the English language, ha ha.

    Anyway, it doesn't surprise me that there are benefits to weeding out the weaker specimens in a sac (besides maintaining a vigorous gene pool), although it would be interesting to experiment with it a little bit more.

    Which is why I will stick to the joys of amateur entomology :) and other things I enjoy studying.


  5. Abdulkarim Elnaas

    Abdulkarim Elnaas Arachnosquire Active Member

    I can see how the things you listed might make sense except for "It can fill in gaps missing in the DNA." That sounds hella cool but that also sounds like something only a prokaryotic organism would do. Could you elaborate about that perchance?
  6. The Snark

    The Snark هرج و مرج مهندس Old Timer

    Look up Horizontal Gene Transfer Mediated Bacterial Antibiotic Resistance. This is a serious concern and believed involved in numerous epidemics. Then you can explain it to me. It is the prime suspect in the resurgence of several diseases at the present and one of the reasons why vaccinations can become ineffective.

    It is interesting you brought that up. One of the hot topics of conversation in the tropical disease conferences is how nature finds a way around the antibiotics and vaccinations. Right now the resurgence of Polio in Pakistan and problems with the vaccinations and loss of effectiveness has caused researchers to revisit the methods of disease transference.

    Another possible game changer is the potential of plasmid transference of resistances which is already found in being found in strains of Salmonella, Yersinia, and E. Coli.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2019
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  7. The Snark

    The Snark هرج و مرج مهندس Old Timer

    @Abdulkarim Elnaas Something else that has gone completely over my head is the time frame factors. Way oversimplified, the time it takes for bacterium to assume new forms compared to the time it takes the human immune system to recognize and adapt. The disparagement between the two is so extreme it has researchers saying pandemics in the future are inevitable and will eventually cause the end of globalization.
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  8. Abdulkarim Elnaas

    Abdulkarim Elnaas Arachnosquire Active Member

    Ok, I think I misunderstood originally. It seems we aren't talking about the animal's genomes but the genomes of their Prokaryotes (maybe like the animal's resident symbiotic gut bacteria and archaea?). I know termites, for example, depend on Protists, Bacteria, and Archaea in their gut to digest cellulose. The symbiotic Protists have symbiotic bacteria of their own to help out as well. Some parasitoid wasps are suuuper duper cool and have viral symbionts. Its because their host sometimes has the ability to encapsulate the invading wasp larvae in hemocytes (insect immune cells) because it can detect that the larvae is a foreign body. The symbiotic viruses surround the larvae and act as a cloaking device so that the host immune system doesn't detect the invader and can't mount an attack.

    Anywho, Prokaryotes are pretty ridiculous and they can just pick up floating genetic material and stick it into their genome. The process is called transformation.

    Actually, phages (viruses of bacteria) can 'accidentally' transfer genetic material between bacteria as well. The process is called transduction. Lysogenic viruses inject themselves into host DNA so that they are copied when the host reproduces. Somewhere down the line after the original host bacteria has reproduced itself, and also the virus, the virus decides to become lytic and it cuts itself out of the hosts DNA and starts doing the usual nefarious things we associate with viruses - usually killing the host bacterium. When it cuts itself out, it sometimes accidentally cuts out some of the host's DNA with it so that now becomes part of the viruses new genome. This extra bacterial genetic material can then be transferred to the next bacterial host. If the virus is defective and can't kill the next host then that bacterium has some new DNA to play with. Transduction can also happen if a lytic virus, after it has totally butchered the poor bacterium's genome and chopped it into pieces, accidentally packages the bacterium's DNA (instead of it's own) into a capsid (essentially the virus' body) and this defective virus then goes on to transfer bacterial DNA into the next (very lucky) host. The host bacterium will sometimes then just plop that DNA into it's own genome for the heck of it. Some bacteria have a CRISPR-Cas system that collects the DNA of these harmful phages, sticks them into a certain place in the bacterial DNA, and then 'engineers' an RNA sequence that can be used to find the viral DNA so it can be deleted before it can do any damage. It gives the bacteria immunity to that particular phage. We humans have taken great advantage of this CRISPR-Cas system and used those Cas proteins in the field of transgenic technology. We can now make animals with whatever mutations we want because we hijacked this bacterial machinery.

    Actually, I just remembered that viruses can transfer DNA into animal genomes. Some viruses that do this (eg. retroviruses) can cause cancer because they inject some DNA that makes our cells do things that they aren't supposed to. I believe 5-10% of human DNA is just viral DNA that has been hitching a ride for millions of years. Some of that DNA has become useful to us, but I believe some of it is just selfish. Selfish 'jumping genes' (transposons) can move from place to place in our genomes because their DNA has the machinery inherited from their (and I guess technically our) viral ancestors. Humans have hijacked viruses as well, using them as a delivery method for modified genes in gene therapy. They are used to cure blindness in some people by delivering functional genes to their eyes.

    I'd like to point out that horizontal gene transfer between bacteria is usually more harmful to the animal host than it is helpful. Previously non-pathogenic or even beneficial bacteria can become pathogenic because they borrowed a gene from a pathogenic strain. For example, this happens with E. coli which is usually a harmless member of our resident gut flora. Also, and I'm not sure how much this applies for arthropods, but I know that prion diseases can be spread by cannibalism in humans. Prions are misfolded proteins that spread their misfolded ways to any protein they come in contact with, creating plaques of misfolded proteins that interfere with important life processes. Because of this they are very contagious and very deadly.

    Sorry for the word vomit :vomit:. I splurge sometimes :hilarious:

    EDIT: I'd also like to point out that viruses can trade genetic information (in plasmids) by conjugation. It kinda reminds me of how people might trade cards. Also, many of these 'mobile genetic elements' (from transduction, conjugation, transformation) involve antibiotic resistance. How convenient for the bacteria...
    I probably told you things you already know. I took the 'explain it' part literally :angelic:
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2019
  9. Turtle

    Turtle Arachnosquire Active Member

    That might be the coolest thing I’ve heard in awhile.

    Question from a layman. If virus and retro-virus are leaving trace amounts of DNA in our gnomes, couldn’t that be another variable that effects how an animal evolves? Other than environmental, behavioral or reproductive pressures.
  10. Abdulkarim Elnaas

    Abdulkarim Elnaas Arachnosquire Active Member

    I would say viral activity makes a huge difference evolutionary speaking. Some viruses can inject just about anywhere, meaning they can split a previously functional gene into two. This creates mutations. And mutations are the fuel for evolution by natural selection. I think scientists are seriously looking into the effects of transposable elements on evolution as well, as all of this is relatively new. Geneticists used to call the DNA between the sequences that encode our proteins 'junk DNA'. Now we are finding genetic 'ecosystems' with selfish genes and other ridiculous otherworldly things. The more they look, the more insane things they find.

    Also, scientists are wondering if viruses invented DNA. They are the only 'organisms' that can convert RNA to DNA (with reverse transcriptase protein) and some viruses have DNA with uracil, which is often only found in RNA. This could be an indicator of a transition from RNA to DNA in viruses. We might owe our entire system of storing information to viruses.
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  11. Abdulkarim Elnaas

    Abdulkarim Elnaas Arachnosquire Active Member

    Actually, to add on that, some selfish genetic elements have taken a front row seat in the evolution of species with segregation distortion. In meoitic drive ( a type of segregation distortion) for example, the sperm that ended up with the selfish gene after meoisis are favored because the selfish genes make them kill off the other sperms (with a toxin, I believe). This is not beneficial to the reproduction of the animal, but it is beneficial to the reproduction of the gene.

    It kinda reminds me of the way that eusocial worker insects with haplodiploidy (eg. bees) forego their own reproduction so their mother (only 50% related to them) produces more sisters (75% related to them) and thus there genes can spread more that way. If they reproduced themselves, they would only pass on 50% of their genes, which is less than if they just made sure their mother kept reproducing. This is called kin selection. Its based on the perspective of looking at reproduction from the genes point of view. Kin selection is one of the reasons why we are programmed by our genes to love and care for family members.
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  12. The Snark

    The Snark هرج و مرج مهندس Old Timer

    @Abdulkarim Elnaas Right. Exactly. Transduction, transformation, conjugation and transposition. One of the major rants of the epidemiologists is the black and white thinking. Cause->effect without taking into account intermediary organisms. Dialed down to the oversimplified; why doesn't a vector that always effectively delivers a payload always cause 100% infection? Why aren't all immune systems identical in an isolated group of people after successive generations? As was explained to me; endosymbiosis and ectosymbiosis, be it be it mutualistic, commensalistic, or parasitic, is a necessary part of all living organisms. But it is never a perfect balance and will always introduce some random element.
    It has always struck me as being extraordinarily naive that something as simple as gut active beneficial bacteria serves one and only one purpose and doesn't transfer other traits and effects to the host. The same applies to all organisms animals encounter throughout their lives.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2019
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  13. Abdulkarim Elnaas

    Abdulkarim Elnaas Arachnosquire Active Member

    I definitely agree that we have underestimated the importance of resident microbiota. To use your example, scientists are finding that just our gut flora has huge effects on basically everything...from autism, to obesity, to depression. I'm not sure if scientists really know how most of those correlations came to be. It would be really handy if problems could be alleviated by something as simple as fixing the bacterial ecology in someone's gut.
  14. The Snark

    The Snark هرج و مرج مهندس Old Timer

    "The rug is getting very lumpy."
    In my capacity of a health care provider of a limited sort I noticed numerous people were being wholesale administered a certain antibiotic around here. That is common world wide among physicians - slam in antibiotic X and cross fingers. Since a lot of the people administered that antibiotic were in the circle bird phenomenon, feel ill, see doctor, doctor takes a guess, hands out antibiotic and sends them on their way. Wash, rinse, repeat. So I checked the contra-indications of the antibiotic which led me to a white paper that determined there are 8 bacteria that benignly live in everyones gut. One of those bacteria completely vanished after repeated administrations of that certain antibiotic and never regrew. Gone. Pfut. Deeble. So I asked my favorite physician what the effects and implications are of that bacteria being gone. The answer was, nobody knows, and there are no studies being done since pursuing the absence of something through scientific analysis that doesn't have any obvious effects is chasing ghosts. You couldn't get funding for that kind of research under any normal circumstance. That led our discussion as to how many of these ghosts have been swept under the rugs? How many other bacteria that have never been studied since they appear to be benign have gone the way of the Dodo?
    "A man would have to be some kind of fool to think he's all alone in the universe" -Jack Burton
    But that is the approach humans have as they trample on and wholesale slaughter unknown numbers of living organisms with a shrug because their absence has no immediate effect on them. Gulp down the Cipro by the ton and hope that a few years or a few generations down the road that bacteria wasn't a key pivotal player in the transduction, transformation, conjugation and transposition dance.
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  15. The Snark

    The Snark هرج و مرج مهندس Old Timer

    And so, here we are, only 80 years into the use of the end all be all antibiotic wonder drugs and they are in their 4th generation. And they are failing. A cousin of the deadliest disease mankind has ever encountered, a strain of Yersinia, is 80% resistant to all known antibiotics. And it is only one of many displaying resistance.
    To paraphrase, "Wither goest thou humanity, in thy shiny car in the night."
  16. Abdulkarim Elnaas

    Abdulkarim Elnaas Arachnosquire Active Member

    @The Snark That is extremely concerning.

    It's weird to think of bacteria being endangered or going extinct, but they have evolved specifically to inhabit the human gut and humans don't naturally produce antibiotics. Its one of those things that had to happen. At least with climate change and chopping up trees, the cause ----> effect is more indirect. With antibiotics its like 'Well, what did you expect to happen?'.

    Someone needs to steal the poop from one of those isolated human populations that have never made contact with the modern world. At least so we can see what we have lost.

    And then there's the super-bugs. At this point do we try to go backwards and see if things change to how they were (I don't think that is happening), or do we just fully commit to the arms-race and maybe play our cards better next time? I tend towards the latter, just because humans are good at destroying things. It might just be arrogance but we've already driven some microbial species to extinction. Our coordination is the special edge that we have over the little buggers - something that fungi and bacteria can't do. Someone discovers the cure to Hep C and in a tiny amount of time that cure has crossed the world and come back. What chance did the virus have to evolve and respond? It is really hard to fight humanity.
  17. The Snark

    The Snark هرج و مرج مهندس Old Timer

    That rallying cry of the scientific community is ringing more hollow every day that passes. A few superbugs have been eliminated but their antecedents, their progenitors, are for the most part alive and well, and have adapted to the changing environment. It took only 80 years to relegate over 90% of the antibiotics to the obsolete garbage heap, a few milliseconds of the time scale of life on this planet.
    And then, let's let the white papers speak for themselves in regards to the extinction of superbugs. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5295735/
    And how long did it take those mutations to develop? And what mutations are going on or have happened as I type this?
    In regards to all these scientific advancements in the medical field, the cynic in me is reminded of a favorite saying of my cousin, "They are trying to push a wet turd up a steep hill with a pointed stick."
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  18. The Snark

    The Snark هرج و مرج مهندس Old Timer

    I along with a vast crowd of health care workers are sitting on the edge of our seats, biting our nails. We are on the verge of polio extinction! And then the undercurrent muttering: Measles. We had that one on the run, didn't we. https://www.cdc.gov/measles/cases-outbreaks.html
    The only completely predictable factor in this game of cat and mouse is human stupidity which we all know supersedes Ohms law and the law of gravity.

    And then it is asked, what if? What if Polio type 4 emerges? Well, that is highly unlikely. About as unlikely as the practice of eating undercooked primates causing a pandemic that destroys the immune system.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2019
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  19. Abdulkarim Elnaas

    Abdulkarim Elnaas Arachnosquire Active Member

    @The Snark

    Also a shout-out to that one ancient human that rubbed his genitals on a gorilla and gave us pubic lice.
  20. The Snark

    The Snark هرج و مرج مهندس Old Timer

    The big question, along with life, the universe, and everything, is who could have foreseen the end all - be all cure for those little buggers:
    You shave one half of your body, grab the lighter fluid and set the unshaven side on fire. Then grab an ice pick and stab the little monsters as they run out of the flames.

    Just how far have we strayed from Ophiophagus Ptyas anyway? Is there redemption? Contrived personified would be an attempt to move this thread back on track. Anyone care to try, or, heaven forbid, will it be left up to me?
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