Wednesday, July 28, 2004

A. geniculata

One of the most stunning of arachnids is the Acanthoscurria geniculata, aka the giant white knee tarantula. This is a massive species with spectacular coloration and a voracious appetite. They are bulky and strong, yet only moderately aggressive. Unlike most of the larger terrestrial tarantulas (e.g. Theraphosa blondi, Lasiodora parahybana), it is actually quite colorful, as indicated by the bright white stripes on its leg joints.

The hairs of this species have been known to be quite irritating, although personal experience varies considerably. I have held one of these creatures before, with ho adverse effects; however, since they are known to be semi-aggressive, I have refrained from holding them in recent years. I would rather not break my record of never having been bitten, ever.

This species is native to Brazil, just as Lasiodora parahybana is. It was an immediate hit with tarantula hobbyists, due to its combination of size and attractiveness. It is not recommended for beginning tarantula wranglers, though.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Diabetes research

The detection of islet autoreactive T cells has been a key componnet in research work on the immunology of diabetes. Cytokine assays are used to determine how T cells respond in such circumstances. Indeed, such assays play a key role in immunology research in general, and are frequently used in the development of vaccines for diseases such as SARS, HIV infection, and the West Nile virus.

Subsequent entries will focus on various assay types, such as the ELISA and ELISPOT assays. In addition, there will be some discussion of the various instruments and technologies which are used to conduct these assays, to automate the procedures involved, and to reduce or remove subjectivity from the evaluation of their results.

Saturday, July 24, 2004


The study of arachnids is fascinating. Tarantulas are especially fascinating, due to their humongous size and wide range of dispositions. Theraphosa blondi, for example, is gargantuan in size, with a nasty temperament. Others are unbelievably gentle, such as the classic Grammastola rosea.

Someday soon, I'd like to say something about Grammastola aureostriatum, which is one of my favorite species of all time.

Trivia: What do you call the fore and aft body segments of a spider? They are commonly referred to as the cephalothorax (head+thorax) and the abdomen, respectively; however, that's not strictly accurate. The thorax is supposed to house various organs which are actually present in the aft body segment of a spider. The more scientifically accurate terms are prosoma and opisthosoma.