Sunday, August 07, 2016

Lions and Tigers and lactating Cockroaches, OH MY!

Do scientists get grossed out?

I suspect many do. I could narrow the field and ask, “Do biologists get grossed out?”. I did two projects in high school that might be too disgusting for some. My father help me obtain a live chicken (I think it was a rooster but it didn’t matter) for a science project. I killed the chicken and then laboriously clean it down to each bone. Then I took on the task of reassembling the bones into a skeleton. It turned out OK, but was more work than I had expected.

The second project came in my senior year. I signed up for an advance class titled Physiology. Each two person team was given a dead well preserved cat. Over the semester we dissected the whole cat. Actually finding body parts was very interesting. At the end I was allowed to keep the cat skull. Great teeth. I know I had the skull in our current house but have not seen it for many years.

I posted about this class on my high school reunion FB page (ok that’s one good thing about Fakebook). Other classmates remember the class and commented. A few of the women recall discovering their cat was pregnant. Maybe it was a different class period than mine but I don’t recall any pregnant cats in my classroom. Being a guy maybe I wasn’t as interested. It’s not like I was the father.

all the better to eat you with, my dear

Oh if you are wondering those teeth in the above picture are NOT part of the cat skull. It was a small gator skull our grandson had.

Still remember the post title? Go ahead look if you need to.

Adding cockroaches to the Wizard Of Oz movie script would have been an opportunity for insecticide product placement. I find cockroaches and many other insects disgusting. However, why do some insects get adored for their beauty (butterfly) or talent (bee)? I don’t know. I suspect their movements, smell, look, what they feel like to touch influence the level of disgust we give these creatures.

Also, our background and culture is very important. But across cultures there are some common disgusting things. Most decay and waste fluids are considered disgusting worldwide. There are exceptions.

How about a delicious Peruvian cuy for a snack? It’s fried/roasted guinea pig. I skipped the offer and just snapped a picture.

When I lived in North Carolina I went to my first pig picking. It was great and somewhat competitive picking your selection right off of the roasted pig.

Have you heard about this expensive coffee that’s made from beans defecated by the asian palm civet? (I thought it was a cat. I looked it up and discovered it’s more of a raccoon-like rodent) Hey cat owners do you think your cat would eat coffee cherries? You could start your own business.

There is a good market for cow urine in India. (story)

A topic for another post - modern manufactured food distances us too far from the source of the food we eat. What’s your opinion?

My research on this post lead me this article about the science of disgusting stuff. In her book, "Don’t Look, Don’t Touch, Don’t Eat," Valerie Curtis focuses on our disgust emotion and its day-to-day effects on our lives. She has been studying disgusting stuff for thirty years. Curtis traces the evolutionary role of disgust in disease prevention and hygiene. Better understanding of disgust she believes will reduce disease in the third world by raising standards of hygiene.

Believe it or not, our disgusting presidential campaign did NOT give me the idea for this post on disgusting things. No it was hearing the news of an ideal protein supplement - cockroach milk. Yeah, my disgusted reaction was followed by, “what cockroaches milk their young?”.

Professor Barbara Stay, University of Iowa, has developed a cockroach milk extraction method called “milking a cockroach”. (I can’t help but think of “jumped the shark”) Oh it’s only the Pacific beetle cockroach that has this unique lactating ability.

Biochemists researched the the nutritional value of this crystalline milk.

Hey Joe, what’s on the schedule for today? Just a cockroach milk analysis. We should finish up early.

Turns out the stuff is highly nutritious. So protein and calorie rich that it might just show up in your energy bar someday.

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