Saturday, December 26, 2009
MOSQUITO GENDER & SEX
I have never given the subject of mosquito reproduction any thought, although I do have to admit that the puzzle of non-human, non-pet reproductive organs and methods has always interested me just a wee bit. If you go back far enough in my blogs, you’ll remember reading one about the chicken and its cloaca, which information was not only a total surprise to me but also engendered a lot of clucking from my adult children about my “prurient” interest.
Anyway, the headline of a Reuters article in today’s LA Times said, “If mosquitoes can’t reproduce, they can’t spread malaria.” Now to me that headline intimates much more interesting reading than the myriad of political headlines surrounding it. The article tells that it is the mosquito, specifically the Anopheles gambiae species, which is responsible for malaria transmission in Africa. This statement is not so interesting, but it is actually the mosquito and its “privates,” so to speak, that pique my interest - and I hope yours - today.
Seems that each male mosquito is responsible for making a “plug” of goop (my non-scientific word ) from its body fluids which, when delivered to the female in the right place of her anatomy, ensures that the male mosquito’s sperm will fertilize her eggs. Of what is this goop made and how does it happen? The article quotes a researcher who indicates that a male mosquito enzyme (called transglutaminase) interacts with proteins in the seminal fluid. This interaction causes the fluid to clot into a gelatinous mass, thus forming the plug. And once the plug is delivered to the proper place in or on the female (the article is not specific in that destination), the male mosquito can just get on about the business of dying, because he only mates once in his life.
If the mating plug is not delivered to the female, the sperm is not stored properly and fertilization is disrupted. Interestingly, the article says this renders the female sterile, which seems to me a wrong gender rendering; that is, if the male mosquito does the job right in the first place she never will be sterile. But I guess that is the researcher’s call!
Anyway, I was surprised to read that male mosquitoes had sperm. I certainly have a hard time conceptualizing the size of mosquito sperm, which could be an interesting thing to ruminate on when one has the time and is inclined to ruminate.
Now the object of this article is very positive. If a way can be found to keep the plug from being formed in the first place (an anti-clotting agent perhaps delivered like an insecticide), the sterility of mosquitoes would cause them to die out, thus preventing the transmission of malaria to humans. Certainly this method beats trying to round up and catch all male mosquitoes for an inoculation-type of prevention.
So the researchers are delighted with their progress and are now working on knocking out the enzyme in the males. The World Health Organization recently said their increased funding is starting to pay off.
So Hail to the researchers; more power to them in ridding the world of this terrible disease that has taken so many lives. And Hail to Reuters for reporting such – and to enlightening me to the further reproductive methods, powers, and anatomy of one of God’s little creatures. Oh, I am truly getting so smart in my old age!