The final chapter in the cockroach saga

31 08 2014

When I was in Sydney last week, I had the final afternoon of the conference off. The Sydney Hilton where I was staying was only a couple of blocks from the Australian Museum, which is where Martyn worked (Martyn is the naturalist I’d been in contact with about the cockroach I’d found several years ago). So I decided to contact him and see if we could meet. Fortunately, he was still working there and working on the afternoon I had free, so we met at the Museum and spent an hour discussing all sorts of stuff over a coffee, including the fate of ‘my’ cockroaches, which all looked much like the picture below.

Female native cockroach on house wall

Female native cockroach on house wall

What happened was that the live female I sent a few years’ ago laid an egg case, and the babies hatched. The mother died after about a year. Some of her young mated with each other (yes, incest is common in many species according to Martyn and if anything it strengthens the gene pool instead of throwing mutations as it seems to do in humans… or is that just a myth perpetuated by religious leaders to prevent incestuous relationships?), but eventually only males were left and so there were no females to carry on the line.

For the full story of the cockroaches I sent to Martyn, see these blog posts (read them in chronological order from top to bottom):

I mentioned that Martyn and I had a wide-ranging (and fascinating) discussion… From first meeting him to some 45 minutes later when the museum was closing, we discussed:

  • incest in animals (including parent/child and brother/sister), which he said is very prevalent in many species, as is homosexuality
  • genetic breeding in cattle to get rid of a heart condition crossing many generations of dairy cattle
  • centuries of genetic modification in the breeding of racehorses (he said most of Australia’s racehorses came from three original males)
  • bio prospecting (yes, that’s a real word) where pharmaceutical companies (was the CSIRO in Australia before various governments — especially the current Abbott government — cut their funding to the bone) are researching compounds in species like my diurnal cockroach for properties like sun protection and then synthetically recreating them to make products for testing and ultimately for human use
  • how adding a couple of genes to E. coli makes insulin that Type 1 diabetics can inject without rejection and thus also prevent the formation of hard skin tissue at the injection site.

Sydney Hilton

31 08 2014

I went to Sydney last week to speak at a conference. The conference was held at the Sydney Hilton and that’s where the organisers had booked me for three nights. I was on the 38th floor (an Executive room floor, which meant I had to their excellent ‘Executive Lounge’), and while the room was very nice and the hotel staff were great, I am glad that my usual life is spent at ground level looking out onto greenery and water in the distance. I don’t think I could live that high up, being overlooked by windows in other buildings.

As an aside, what’s with the ‘environmental’ cards asking guests to leave towels etc. hanging up that they don’t want laundered, yet when you do so for three days straight, the housekeeping staff change them every day anyway? They didn’t change my sheets, so that was something, I guess.







Pretty rocks in Sydney

31 08 2014

One of my friends is a big fan of pretty rocks and takes the most amazing micro photographs of them. So, when I saw that a whole floor at the Australian Museum in Sydney was dedicated to rocks and geological stuff I just had to go.

And I can sure see why she is fascinated with them — there are some AMAZING structures and colours below the dirt!

Here are a couple of the photos I took.


That line of stones shows the colour variations in sapphires found in Australia. And you thought sapphires were just blue!