Tuesday, June 10, 2014

La Brea Bees

As I am interested in both bees and the Pleistocene, as any reader knows, this article about bees preserved in the La Brea Pits is impossible to ignore.
Oddly, the best explanation of the methods and meaning of the find was in the Comments, by one John Turner:

"The original article says the specimens were actually excavated in 1970. They were so tiny that curators set them aside until there was a method to nondestructively analyze them...

"That method arrived with the SCANCO Model uCT 50, a 51 x 51 x 30 inch cabinet housing a complete CAT-scan X-ray machine that can be parked most anywhere you'd put a fullsize copier...

"The illustration for this article, the red 3-D model of a bee pupa, was scanned as 2,172 slices, the slices converted to a 3,021,012-triangle polygon mesh and then cleaned up a bit in software before being rendered...

"What a wonderful tool! The specimen can now be dissected over and over in digital form, while the original remains safe in a little box in the store room. The "voxels" of the digital model are two to four cubic microns each, about the size of the cells in the tissues. You could trace this insect's complete nervous system, count the hairs on its legs and the lenses in its compound eyes, even spot tiny parasites without ever having to shred the specimen into thousands of little slices with a microtome. Mommy Mommy buy me one!"

I might add that when I published my first book,  A Rage for Falcons, in 1984, I walked into the shop at la Brea and they had three copies.

2 comments:

lizequinox said...

I'm learning about bees just now, perhaps growing myself a colony. They lost their queen & we stole queen cells from another hive and hope they grow her and she survives. If she doesn't the whole colony collapses. What a trip!

lizequinox said...

I'm learning about bees just now, perhaps growing myself a colony. They lost their queen & we stole queen cells from another hive and hope they grow her and she survives. If she doesn't the whole colony collapses. What a trip!