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Image of mosquito's heart wins first place in Nikon's 'Small World' photomicrography competition
Date:10/15/2010

A fluorescent image of the heart of a mosquito taken by a Vanderbilt graduate student has captured first place in Nikon's "Small World" 2010 photomicrography competition.

Jonas King took the image that shows a section of the tube-like mosquito heart magnified 100 times. He is a member of the research group of Julin Hillyer, assistant professor of biological sciences, and the image was taken as part of their research on the circulatory system of Anopheles gambiae, a mosquito that spreads malaria.

According to Nikon, 2,200 images were submittedthe largest number in the 36-year history of the competitionand King's image was judged the winner for its combination of aesthetic beauty, scientific relevance and the technical difficulty involved in capturing it.

"Surprisingly little is known about the mosquito's circulatory system despite the key role that it plays in spreading the malaria parasite," Hillyer said. "Because of the importance of this system, we expect better understanding of its biology will contribute to the development of novel pest and disease control strategies."

The mosquito's heart and circulatory system is dramatically different from that of mammals and humans. A long tube extends from the insect's head to tail and is hung just under the cuticle shell that forms the mosquito's back. The heart makes up the rear two-thirds of the tube and consists of a series of valves within the tube and helical coils of muscle that surround the tube. These muscles cause the tube to expand and contract, producing a worm-like peristaltic pumping action.

Most of the time, the heart pumps the mosquito's blooda clear liquid called hemolyphtoward the mosquito's head, but occasionally it reverses direction. The mosquito doesn't have arteries and veins like mammals. Instead, the blood flows from the heart into the abdominal cavity and eventually cycles back through the heart. "The mosquito's heart works something like the pump in a ga
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Contact: David F. Salisbury
david.salisbury@vanderbilt.edu
615-343-6803
Vanderbilt University
Source:Eurekalert  

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