Saturday, 19 July 2014

Do insects feel pain? in my humble opinion of course they do, this isn't based on some nambipambi hug an insect mentality, but on hard science. What is the definition of pain? I think it is a mechanism by which an organism detects risk and avoids injury, it certainly works for humans and myriads of other organisms both invertebrate and vertebrate. There are many definitions of pain such as a harmful stimulus which signals current or impending tissue damage, this is patently true. Insects possess complex nervous systems composed of the same cellular organisation as ourselves - axons, synapses, ganglia, nerve fibres to name a few. The biochemical makeup of an insect's nervous system has similar if not the same neurotransmitters, agonists, antagonists, hormones, and this is due to sharing a common ancestor far back in deep geological time. I suggest that the only reason people think that insects cannot feel pain is because they are encased in an exoskeleton that cannot show what we would interpret as emotion, it is the equivalent of expecting a HarleyDavidson to grimace.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Filming Dinoflagellates at the National Oceanography Centre at Southampton was an interesting challenge. The objective was to show the bioluminescence produced when algal cells are stimulated chemically or by physical shock, but also simulating how it would look for real in the open ocean! A cunning beamsplitter prototype camera supplied by Ammonite ltd that is sensitive to to infra red and blue light was coupled to my microscope system, this enables the cells which in nature only bioluminesce at night, to be imaged using infra red while the very highly sensitivite blue camera captures the bioluminescence. The blue camera has an effective sensitivity of 18,000,000 ISO, which is remarkable compared to an average DSLR which has a maximum sensitivity of 25,600 ISO. Different species of Dinoflagellates were observed to bioluminesce, some more brightly than others. Martha Valiadi and Charlotte Marcinko, phD Students from Ocean Biochemistry and Ecosystems assisted us with the supply of fresh cultures and their preparation for filming. We looked at various species of Dinoflagellates including Pyrocystis fusiformis, Pyrocystis lunula, Pyrocystis noctiluca and Alexandrium tamarense.