What Do You Call A Fly Without Wings? …A Walk.

Okay, so this isn’t about flies but I needed a good insect joke to entice you. Now that I’ve got your attention, I’m going to talk about nature’s hotties: isopods (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Some ravishing young isopods in their natural habitat. Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/pipsissiwa/3551113859

Figure 1: Some ravishing young isopods in their natural habitat. Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/pipsissiwa/3551113859

This week’s class adventure was to head out in the rain to Pacific Spirit Regional Park in search of the ever-captivating isopods. These creatures are also known as woodlice, and are generally the bane of houseowners’ existence when the time comes for spring cleaning, because they enjoy hiding in dark spaces behind say the boxes in your garage. However, to a group of scientists such as ourselves, these little bundles of joy were (generally) met with excitement as we overturned every log we could in search of them.

After a half hour of extensive isopod-hunting, we headed back to the lab with our samples in hand to set about answering some burning scientific questions. After a brief pizza break (I realized later I had failed to wash my hands between isopod-catching and pizza-devouring…ah the life of a scientist), we subjected our captives to 3 different choice experiments. The results of only one of these tests showed a statistically significant result, which is that isopods prefer cold areas to warm ones. We determined this using very high-tech machinery: it involved a pathway out of aluminum foil stretching between two Ziploc bags filled with either warm water or ice…only the most advanced equipment out there! Placing one bug in at a time, we gave them each 2 minutes to pick a side. Through the magic of statistics, it was determined that the preference goes to cold habitats by a landslide. Somewhat surprising was our lack of a statistically significant preference between light and dark, or moist and dry environments. Considering we found (on average) almost 37 times more isopods underneath logs than on top (figure 2), I would expect them to show a distinct preference for dark, moist habitats. However, just because our data didn’t conclusively show this, that does not mean isopods truly don’t care where they hang out. We sampled one section of a single trail in Vancouver for a half hour—this by no means is meant to represent isopods far and wide. To me, this is one of the beauties of scientific research—though we can make hypotheses and provide support for certain conclusions, it is likely that we will never know the full truth behind any biological organism.

Isopod abundance in Pacific Spirit Regional Park on 09/24/15

Isopod abundance in Pacific Spirit Regional Park on 09/24/15

Watch the following video for an insight into some of the more exciting isopods out there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuHxD5HgtYM. *WARNING: PROFANITY*

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