Arthropod Roundup: Callinectes in the UK, horny females, artificial arthropod hair, and genetic mosquito control

Brief blurbs about recent arthropod news and research:

  • The blue crab, Callinectes sapidus, has been found in England for the second time ever. These ill-tempered, but delicious, swimming crabs are native to North America; where they represent a major marine fishery despite serious conservation concerns. Previously, blue crabs have turned up in Japan and the Mediterranean. It is conventionally thought that these crabs were brought in as larvae in ship ballast water and have since gained a foothold in their new homes. It is possible that this blue crab in Cornwall also came over from America in ballast water, or it could have been carried on ocean currents up from the Mediterranean population. It is unclear weather this is an isolated individual or a representative of a new invasive population.
  • You will be disappointed to learn that the horny females I referred to in the title are dung beetles. One usually associates the growth of horns and antlers with males who use them to battle for dominance in a social hierarchy or for their pick of the choicest females. However, female dung beetles, Onthophagus sagittarius, are known to have much more impressive horns than their male counterparts. A new study suggests that these horns are used by the females to compete over reproductive resources (i.e. poop). Size matched females with larger horns were found to achieve greater reproductive fitness, making horn size a positively selected female secondary sex characteristic in these beetles. (Via 80Beats)

    Horned Onthophagus sagittarius females square off. Photo: Sean Stankowski

  • New research reports the development of synthetic superhydrophobic materials inspired by tiny, water repellent hairs in insects. These hairs are found on the legs of water walkers and the backs of Stenocarid beetles, which use the hairs to channel water droplets to their mouth.
  • The genomes of the malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae, and the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, were published in 2002 and 2006, respectively. These sequencing efforts appear to be bearing a lot of fruit as of late; as several genetic approaches to controlling the spread of mosquito vectored diseases have been proposed. These include; increasing the immunity of mosquitoes to the dengue fever virus, weakening mosquitoes by preventing waste secretion, and preventing female mosquitoes from developing functioning flight structures. Some of these ideas are pretty far from real-world application unfortunately, and the buzz surrounding them seems to be the result of overly-excitable university PR departments.

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5 Responses to “Arthropod Roundup: <em>Callinectes</em> in the UK, horny females, artificial arthropod hair, and genetic mosquito control”


  1. 1 EGC March 8, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    Mike take a look at this 2002 Nature Paper…

    “Trangenic anopheline mosquitoes impaired in transmission of a malaria parasite”

    It fits in nicely with the other preventative genetic approaches you mentioned.

  2. 2 Mike Bok March 8, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Yeah, there are a lot of potential applications for transgenics in curbing mosquito borne pathogens.

    …As an unrelated aside, putting ‘horny females’ in a title line radically changes the day-to-day contents of my spam folder…

  3. 3 Zane Selvans March 18, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    In the mosquito/malaria/dengue fever vein you might be interested in Bruce Hay’s work on ways to force this resistance out into the wild mosquito population. A little bit crazy…

  4. 4 Mike Bok March 18, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Very cool stuff for sure. Hopefully they can perfect it.

  5. 5 None! August 28, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    A thesis written by Elizabeth Kathleen McCraven (University of New Orleans) Electro-Disinfection of Ballast Water, can be found on the web, it states that it is known that mosquito larvae is in ballast water. Her statements on mosquitos and ballast water are written in plain talk that speaks volumes about the way the ballast water is being looked at in regards to mosquito movement. Ballast systems also carry bacteria, virus and algae. Algae acts as a host for bacteria and virus. Mosquitos feed on algae.
    Building land based treatment and disposal facilities for all ships would be faster and safer than the current Coast Guard plan to install equipment only on ships. One can only imagine the jobs this would create not to mention revenue.


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I have moved.
Arthropoda can now be found here.

Michael Bok is a graduate student studying the visual system of mantis shrimp.

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