Friday, March 22, 2013

Bug beheadings

"What?!" I said to myself when I received an e-mail* linking me to an article on the fascinating and sciency website I09. With all the attention I have paid to human face transplants (see posts here and here), I was astounded to learn that entire heads have been transplanted. Not human heads, but the heads of insects – and this is not a recent innovation. From the article "The Bizarre History of Insect Head Transplants," I learned that entomologists have been doing this for almost 100 years… In 1923, biologist Walter Finkler began snipping off the heads of butterflies and other bugs and switching them with other species and the opposite gender. The insects whose heads were switched each survived and carried on the traits common to their brain, rather than their new body. While some scientists ridiculed the experiments at the time, others replicated them and similar experiments are performed to this day, leading to much new information. Esther Inglis-Arkell concludes, "Every now and again, the idea of head transplants for mammals, or even humans, makes its way through the news. While the ethics of experiments on humans are very different from the ethics of experiments on insects, it’s worth bearing in mind that head and brain transplants aren’t as unheard of as one might think. And they’ve taught us a lot – including that if insects ever do mutate into huge monsters, we deserve everything they do to us."

*Thanks a million, Chase!

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