TikTok/jonothonlyons

By now, most people are familiar with Pizza Rat, a rat who rose to fame thanks to a 2015 viral video that showed the rodent dragging a piece of pizza down a flight of New York City subway stairs.

As CNN.com noted at the time, “It can be argued that there are fewer things more New York than a slice, the subway and a rat. Combine the three, and it’s magic.”

As of December 2020, the video had amassed 11 million YouTube hits.

The Pizza Rat was back in the news recently thanks to viral video from performance artist Jonothon Lyons (a.k.a. Buddy the Rat), who re-created the Pizza Rat’s infamous subway incident.

Lyons created Buddy the Rat 11 years ago and brought him out of retirement recently. In addition to his subway performance, Buddy the Rat has been spotted around NYC pouncing on the Brooklyn Bridge; wooing Minnie Mouse at Times Square; and playfully grabbing pedestrians’ food bags. And with COVID shutting down theaters, New Yorkers have been seeing a lot more of Buddy the Rat.

CNN’s Jeanne Moos recently profiled Lyons, who said New Yorkers usually have one of three reactions to Buddy the Rat, “Joy, fear or radical indifference.”

While NYC’s transit probably was not happy that Lyons sparked interest in the 2015 Pizza Rat incident, according to Moos they recently thanked Lyons for equipping Buddy with a COVID mask.

Are Mealworms a Possible Sustainable Food Source?

With global food demands rising at an alarming rate, a study led by Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) scientists has found new evidence that an insect shows promise as an alternative protein source: the yellow mealworm.

The research is based upon a new analysis of the genome of the mealworm species Tenebrio molitor led by Christine Picard, associate professor of biology and director in Forensic and Investigative Sciences program at the School of Science at IUPUI. The work was published in the Journal of Insects as Food and Feed on Aug. 31.

“Human populations are continuing to increase and the stress on protein production is increasing at an unsustainable rate, not even considering climate change,” said Picard, whose lab focuses on the use of insects to address global food demand.

The research, conducted in partnership with Beta Hatch, has found the yellow mealworm — historically a pest — can provide benefit in a wide range of agriculture applications. Not only can it be used as an alternative source of protein for animals including fish, but its waste is also ideal as organic fertilizer.

The yellow mealworm species Tenebrio molitor. An IUPUI-led study finds the insect could serve as a good alternate protein source in agriculture.
IUPUI

Picard and her team sequenced the yellow mealworm’s genome using 10X Chromium linked-read technology. The results will help those who want to use the DNA and optimize the yellow mealworm for mass production and consumption. This new technology integrates the best of two sequencing methods to produce a reliable genome sequence.

“Insect genomes are challenging, and the longer sequence of DNA you can generate, the better genome you can assemble,” said Picard.

Picard added the mealworm has — and will have — a wide variety uses. “Mealworms, being insects, are a part of the natural diet of many organisms,” said Picard. “Fish enjoy mealworms, for example. They could also be really useful in the pet food industry as an alternative protein source, chickens like insects — and maybe one day humans, too, because it’s an alternative source of protein.”

Next, Picard said the researchers plan to look at what governs some of the biological processes of yellow mealworms in order to harness information useful for the commercialization of these insects. Source: IUPUI