An eye for the tsetse fly

The female Aedes aegypti mosquito “is the lab rat of vector insects,” says Attardo, who studied gene signaling in these mosquitoes for his doctoral research. “They are easy to rear and medically significant.” Aedes aegypti transmits dengue fever and yellow fever. The female is a blood feeder and therefore responsible for disease transmission.
Male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes use an elaborate antenna to locate females based upon the vibration frequency of their wing beats. The male feeds on plant nectar rather than blood and does not transmit disease.
Young tsetse in love. The gestational process of the tsetse is unusual among arthropods. Females rear intrauterine larvae and supply nutrients through a milk gland. Over the female’s lifetime, she may give birth to eight offspring, but only one at a time. Each larva weighs as much as the mother at birth.
The white markings on the belly of the tsetse fly are known as tracheoles. These tubes supply the oxygen to fuel the metabolic processes required to produce milk and support the development of the intrauterine offspring. Each female tseyseproduces up to 30 mg of milk during a pregnancy, more than its own body weight.
This image was selected as an Image of the Year by the John E. Fogarty International Center. Attardo is fond of bringing insects’ eyes into focus. “The way we’re wired, it feels like we’re being looked back at, bringing a sense of connection to what you are looking at,” says Attardo. The dark spot is not an anatomical pupil but an optical illusion created by the light absorption patterns.
Magnified 512x, the detail of an adult tsetse fly’s foot comes into view with a scanning electron microscope. The Velcro-like texture of the footpad allows the fly to land on virtually any surface, while the pronounced hook is used to assist in releasing the sticky foot from the ground.
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A research scientist’s passion for photography results in an award-winning image of the insects he studies.
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