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A few cool recent science findings

One of my undergrads has just completed her honors thesis on flight in the California wing-dimorphic cricket species, and after a tremendous amount of work she wound up getting some really cool results. Based on a prior publication, we all thought that making female crickets fly for 10 minutes would cause them to histolyze their flight muscles and grow their ovaries.

But that wasn't the case. More of the flown crickets actually retained their flight muscle compared to tethered, unflown controls (the tethering controls for the handling required to get the crickets to fly). There was a small trend towards larger ovaries in the flown vs. tethered crickets, but it was not significant and was much smaller in magnitude than the difference between pink-muscled crickets and white-muscled crickets.

Of course, these findings raise a billion new questions, but this was a fantastic and interesting project by itself.

Somewhat related to all this, something cool happened on Monday night, when I stayed up late to complete a late timepoint and then slept overnight in the lab. At the moment, I'm running assays to check the hemolymph composition of the California cricket species at different times of the day and night. We want to study processes in crickets that are in a post-absorptive state, so I take food away from the crickets 3-4 hours before I start the experiment. Logistically, that means that I transfer crickets from a co-housed sweater box into pint-size deli cups that contain a cotton ball (so they aren't dehydrated). [I'll try to remember to take a photo of the setup this evening.]

Anyway, to estimate a cricket's total hemolymph volume, I inject them with fluorescently-labeled inulin, let them sit for 30-60 minutes, then puncture the exoskeleton and collect the hemolymph. By measuring the relative dilution of the inulin, I can back-calculate to the total hemolymph volume.

One of the things I discovered when I was developing this method for crickets was that the inulin is very difficult to dissolve in water, and it comes out of solution easily. So to ensure that my results are as consistent as possible, I vortex the tube of inulin every time that I go to draw some out for an injection.

I'm using an ancient, inherited vortexer that rattles around a whole bunch, and thus vibrates the containers holding the crickets.

I'm not sure if it was the vibrations from the vortexer, or simply the time of night, but on Monday night I saw at least three of the ten long-winged crickets open their wing covers and start vibrating their hind wings, which is a preparatory behavior for flying.

In comparison, I've never seen the Florida crickets do this.

This entry was originally posted at http://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1153412.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


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