Mosquito larva, green algae and hand grenades over dinner

In what is becoming a common occurrence these days, our 3 year old daughter became fascinated with the mosquito larva in a bucket full of rainwater and asked to look at them in the microscope.  I set it up so her and her brother could fight over who got to look at it wriggling while I made dinner (never did sibling arguments make me so happy as they completely ignored the TV). After dinner it occurred to me that the inside was worth looking at too.  In my summer majors biology lab, last week we smooshed termites on slides and  I fell in love with the crazy diversity of protists in their guts.  What’s inside a mosquito larva gut?  Lets see!  Crunch.  (actually it felt like a very soft Pop as i pushed on the coverslip). First thing we noticed was that you could still see what looks like peristalsis in what I assume is the muscle tissue of its gut (actually, since they have an open circulatory system, I wonder if this could be muscle that lines the hemocoel – maybe this peristalsis keeps the hemolymph flowing):

[And here I discover the limits of my free account.  Find me on Facebook and friend me, the movie is there and is very cool]

The gut tract was oddly intact.  Notice the thread like stuff near the top…. in the microscope these looked even more like nervous tissue than in this picture, but I am just a Dad with a microscope, not a mosquito neurologist:

An oddly intact mosquito larva gut tract

If you look carefully right about the center of that last picture, you see a faint green (look hard, was more obvious before file transfer).  Magnifying on that green shows that  its a green algae and this larvae is full of them.  Through the oculars, this little green hamburger looks like it belongs to the genus Cosmarium, which I discovered last month is a healthy component of my wife’s whisky barrel pond:

Look at all this STUFF! Man, these larvae can eat (its their job). Notice the small hand grenade… who knew?


About SubOptimist

I am an Associate Professor in the Science Department at Georgia Perimeter College, Clarkston. I teach introductory biology courses at both the majors and non-majors level in addition to microbiology. Previous to that I spent 7 years as a postdoctoral researcher on different viruses. While I don't miss being on the "grant treadmill", I think better when I write and miss writing up data for papers and grants; this blog helps me with that a little. And sometimes my kids' insanely funny and cute antics need to be shared with the world. Any view expressed in this blog is that of me personally and not Georgia Perimeter College or the GPC Clarkston Science Department.
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