We learn to avoid touching hot stuff at an early age. I was reminded of this one Sunday afternoon, a few week’s ago, when I spent some time baking cookies with two of my cousin’s 9-year-old daughters. My job was straightforward and simple. I was the “oven assistant” – I put the cookies into and took them out of the hot oven.
While I was there, I taught them one useful technique. If a hot cookie sticks to the spatula, use the back of your finger – your fingernail – to gently push it onto the cooling rack. It’s less sensitive to heat than the front tip of your finger.
But what about insects. They also need to deal with temperatures that are either too hot or too cold. And sometimes they seek out temperatures that are just right, as when hungry mosquitoes seek out warm-blooded skin. How do insects sense temperature? Is there an app for that?
It turns out there is…sort of….and it’s known by the catchy title “gustatory receptor G428b”.
As the name implies, gustatory receptors involve the sense of taste (and the sense of smell). These insect “tastebuds” are found on gustatory hairs, which are “distributed on multiple body parts including the proboscis (tongue), wing margins, legs and ovipositor (egg laying organ).” They allow “allow insects to smell carbon dioxide and to taste sugar and bitter chemicals like caffeine.”
However, in a recent study at Brandeis University, researchers found a gustatory sensor in fruit flies that senses temperature. The receptor, known as G428b, can sense external temperatures and has been found to trigger “a quick response if temperatures exceed the fly’s Goldilocks zone” of too hot or too cold. This sensor is also “present in disease-spreading insects like mosquitoes and tsetse flies”.
It makes perfect sense that humans and fruit flies both seek out the Goldilocks zone. But we humans also know there are times when you have to stay in the kitchen near that hot oven door. So I think it’s only fair that the bakers (and the “oven assistant”) get first crack at the cookies, don’t you? (And by the way, they were delicious.)
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Trail Maintenance Schedule. Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org for time and place.
Wednesday mornings, August 7, 14, 21 & 28.
Saturday mornings, August 10 & 24.
New trail maps available. If you’d like to explore a bit on your own, the City of Santa Clarita has a website with trail maps of our local open spaces.
There’s also a new website for bicycle riders.
Ask Dr. Norm: Do you have questions about the flora, fauna, animals, rocks, etc. in our Santa Clarita Valley? Here’s a place for you to ask your questions. Dr. Norman Herr, Ph.D., is a professor of science and computer education at California State University, Northridge.
Tell Us About Your Hike: Here’s a new website where you can post pictures, provide feedback and make suggestions about the City of Santa Clarita’s trails and open spaces.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on “The SCV Outdoor Report”, brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
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Source: Santa Clarita News