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Distinguished author

Doctor Francesco Redi.jpg

Francesco Redi
1626–1697. Standard IPNI form: Redi

Francesco Redi was an Italian entomologist, parasitologist and toxicologist, sometimes referred to as the "founder of experimental biology" and the "father of modern parasitology". Having a doctoral degree and in both medicine and philosophy from the University of Pisa at the age of 21, he worked in various cities of Italy.

Redi is best known for his series of experiments, published in 1668 as Esperienze Intorno alla Generazione degli Insetti ("Experiments on the Generation of Insects"), which is regarded as his masterpiece and a milestone in the history of modern science. The book is one of the first steps in refuting "spontaneous generation", a theory also known as "Aristotelian abiogenesis". At the time, prevailing theory was that maggots arose spontaneously from rotting meat, which Redi was able to disprove. In an experiment, He used samples of rotting meat that were either fully exposed to the air, partially exposed to the air, or not exposed to air at all. Redi showed that both fully and partially exposed rotting meat developed fly maggots, whereas rotting meat that was not exposed to air did not develop maggots. This discovery completely changed the way people viewed the decomposition of organisms and prompted further investigations into insect life cycles and into entomology in general. It is also an early example of forensic entomology.

In Esperienze Intorno alla Generazione degli Insetti Redi was the first to describe ectoparasites, such as lice (Phthiraptera), fleas (Siphonaptera), and some mites (Acari). His next treatise in 1684, titled Osservazioni intorno agli animali viventi che si trovano negli animali viventi ("Observations on Living Animals, that are in Living Animals") recorded the descriptions and the illustrations of more than 100 parasites. In it he also differentiates the earthworm (generally regarded as a helminth) and Ascaris lumbricoides, the human roundworm. An important innovation from the book is his experiments in chemotherapy in which he employed what is now called "scientific control", the basis of experimental design in modern biological research. Perhaps, his most significant observation was that parasites produce eggs and develop from them, which contradicted the prevailing opinion that they are produced spontaneously. Altogether he is known to have described some 180 species of parasites.

See also: Distinguished authors of previous months.

Species of the month

Zigzag Stony Coral

Madrepora oculata

Madrepora oculata

Some facts on this coral:

Height: 30 to 50 cm.

Depth range: 80 to 2000 m.

Range: Worldwide outside of polar seas.

Diet: Plankton and suspended organic particles.

First described: By the Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus in 1758.

Madrepora oculata doesn't like to follow straight lines, but prefers to zigzag. It is one of the deepest reef building stony corals in the world, known to occur as deep as 2000 meters. Colonies are distinguished by the zig-zag appearance of their branches. The species is quite variable in its branch tendency, its texture and color and other aspects, even within the same colony. It is bushy, growing in small colonies that form thickets, creating fan-shaped matrices. It has thick skeletal parts that grow in a lamellar pattern. As its skeleton is fragile and unable to sustain a large framework, it is usually found among stronger corals that offer protection. Madrepora oculata produces large amounts of mucus that is extracellular or outside the cell membranes. This has a protective capacity to shield the skeleton from attacks of destructive pests. The genus Madrepora has 14 species and belongs to the order Scleractinia, or "Stony Corals", which contains approximately 1400 recognized species partitioned into 27 families.

See also: Species of previous months

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