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Friday, February 1, 2013

SL Letter of the Day: Women Fucking Men? Invertebrates Got There First!

Posted by on Fri, Feb 1, 2013 at 4:11 PM

Dear Dan & the Tech Savvy At-Risk Youth:

I was listening to the podcast this week—as I am wont to do—and just finished listening to the segment on scabies.

While we may, at times, believe that the sexual characteristics that some deem “bizarre” are unique to humans, they cannot be compared to the diversity of sexual behaviours exhibited by the often-overlooked invertebrates. As an M.Sc. student at the University of Alberta, Canada, part of my thesis deals with the fascinating genitalic morphology of a group of feather mites called Trouessartia. These mites live on the dorsal surface of the flight feathers and consume oils from the birds’ body. What is so interesting about these mites is that they exhibit a reversal of sexual morphology.

“Whoa, hold on a minute! What do I mean by a reversal of sexual morphology?” While, in most organisms, conspicuous external genitalia is associated with males, in some species of Trouessartia the females possess a spermaduct (female genitalia) that extends externally from the body to various lengths. The male’s aedeagus (male genitalia) is internal. So how does sperm get from the guy to the gal? To date, we have only found one pair of mites in copula. This is perhaps not surprising considering that when we collect these mites from the hosts, they are already dead, so it is quite rare to find them holding onto each other in a lovers’ embrace. Because we have found only one pair of these mites in copula, we are still uncertain of how they transfer sperm. We presume that the female’s external spermaduct is inserted into an opening in the male’s aedeagus. In another feather mite genus (Tinamolichus) the external spermaduct in females is even longer than in Trouessartia, while the male’s genitalic opening has moved from between his hind legs up to his “throat” where it is located deep within a tube. It seems that the only conceivable way for these mites to reproduce, would be through a reversal of copulatory roles whereby the female inserts her spermaduct into the male’s genitalic opening to take up the sperm.

I have attached two images taken of a Trouessartia male and Trouessartia female using a Scanning Electron Microscope. These images are colourized (as scanning electron micrographs are taken in grayscale). The scale bar represents micrometers; to give you an idea, these mites are approximately 500 – 550 µm (0.5 – 0.55 mm) in length. These mites have eight legs (which is why they are sometimes mistakenly thought to be spiders). The hair-like structures that are projecting from the body are called “setae” and are used to pass information to the mite’s body, much like the whiskers of a cat. Both of these images are of the dorsum (or backs) of the mites. If you look towards the posterior area of the female’s body, you will notice a pair of terminal lobes. Between these lobes you will see the external female spermaduct. The male has no such external genitalia. When copulating, these mites arrange themselves so that their rear ends are touching and the male clasps onto the female with a pair of ventral suckers.

These mites are only one example of the amazing sexual morphologies and behaviours of invertebrates. They are also an excellent reminder that, with all of the “kinky” things we as humans have incorporated into our sex lives, that invertebrates were doing them first, and that many of them have moved on to weirder and wilder things.

Kaylee Byers

Thanks for letting all the peggers out there know that mites beat 'em to it—kindasorta—good luck with the M.Sc., Kaylee!

 

Comments (10) RSS

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TheMisanthrope 1
These look nothing like spiders. You should be fine.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on February 1, 2013 at 4:29 PM · Report this
Sandiai 2
"there"?
Posted by Sandiai on February 1, 2013 at 4:37 PM · Report this
3
Male Xytiscus crab spiders have to tie their mates down to keep from getting eaten. Arthropod bondage.
Posted by fubarista on February 1, 2013 at 5:08 PM · Report this
emma's bee 4
But still, they're no big whoop compared to Daphnia magna, and really, all the cladocerans -- the gals who reproduce asexually by parthenogenesis (until stress conditions demand that they produce sons with whom to breed sexually and produce ephippial eggs).

I thought this was the future of the human race, at least to the paranoid right?
Posted by emma's bee on February 1, 2013 at 5:09 PM · Report this
5
But they don't know for sure, so they only mite be pegging.
Posted by DRF on February 1, 2013 at 7:17 PM · Report this
aureolaborealis 6
Odonata, anyone?
Posted by aureolaborealis on February 2, 2013 at 1:41 AM · Report this
BrotherBob 7
Now I know why my mom wouldn't let me have a pet canary. To much to learn for a preteen boy! My mom made me mammalian!
Posted by BrotherBob on February 2, 2013 at 7:42 AM · Report this
8
Sex, kink and science. Can one ask for anything more?
Posted by Tor on February 2, 2013 at 5:12 PM · Report this
bugwitch 9
As an Entomology grad student I can tell you so many wonderful things about the crazy sex lives of insects. I'm sure you all know about the practice of 'traumatic insemination' practiced by a select few species of insect -most notably the bed bug- however, did you know that a species of bed bug found in parts of Africa one up's this and engages in male-male traumatic insemination in an effort to replace the sperm of Bed Bug 1 with that of Bed Bug 2.

And yes, females of many species of arthropods (spiders, mantids, etc) will complete their sexual escapades by consuming the male post coitus, however this typically only happens if she is in need of food at the time. So, it does not happen every time you see a pair mating, but it definitely happens often enough.

Okay, one more...Only female mosquitoes drink blood.
Posted by bugwitch on February 3, 2013 at 7:42 PM · Report this
SoapMacTavish 10
Bunch of sodo-mites if you ask me!
Posted by SoapMacTavish on February 4, 2013 at 10:06 AM · Report this

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