aphid

First Evidence Found for Photosynthesis in Insects

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Livin’ on ur plants, harvestin ur sunshine

The ability to gather sunlight and convert it to useable energy has been the plant kingdom’s longstanding trump card (along with some bacteria and fungi) when it comes to “greatest evolutionary adaptation known”. Unlike the rest of the tree of life ,photosynthetic organisms have billions of years worth of free energy to count on. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet of solar food. The evolution of the animal world actually wouldn’t have happened if photosynthetic organisms hadn’t started pumping oxygen into our atmosphere in the early years of Earth.

For the first time, scientists have found evidence that an insect shares this ability. Some pea aphids, like the one pictured above, can produce plant-like orange pigments called carotenoids. In addition to chlorophyll, these are the same compounds that leaves use to harvest light, and also why we get those beautiful browns and oranges in autumn.

The aphid seems to have “stolen” the genes from a fungus, and then through some non-photosynthetic mechanism, is using the pigments to create ATP, life’s energy currency.

This isn’t the first time a larger organism has developed the ability to harvest sunlight! A sea slug was discovered a few years ago that borrowed photosynthetic genes from microscopic algae. Looks like the branches on that tree of life cross over more than we thought. 

More at Scientific American.

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GENES THAT JUMP:

Genes that leap from one species to another are more common than we thought. Does this shake up the tree of life?

by Ferris Jabr

Long ago, hornworts did something plants are not supposed to do: they breached the species barrier, trading DNA with an entirely different kind of plant – a fern.

Between 300 and 130 million years ago, as trees and flowering plants grew to dominate the globe, the sun-loving ferns of yore found themselves trapped beneath forest canopies. Most fern species perished under this umbrage, but the ones that survived learned to live on lean light. These persistent plants evolved a molecule called neochrome that could detect both red and blue light, helping them stretch towards any beams that managed to filter through the dense awning of leaves.

Neochrome’s origins have long eluded scientists. As far as anyone knew, the gene that codes for neochrome existed in only two types of plants separated by hundreds of millions of years of evolution: ferns and algae. It was extremely unlikely that the gene had been passed down from a common ancestor, yet somehow skipped over every plant lineage between algae and ferns.

About two years ago, while searching through a new massive database of sequenced plant genomes, Fay Wei-Li, a biologist at Duke University, found a near-exact match for the neochrome gene in a group of plants not previously known to possess the light-sensitive protein: hornworts. Through subsequent DNA analysis of living specimens – like those he collected in Florida – Li confirmed his suspicion: ferns did not evolve neochrome on their own; rather, they took the gene from hornworts…

(read more: Aeon.co)

photographs by Shiper Wu, Fir0002, and BerndH

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 The Pea Aphid (Acyrthosiphon pisum) life cycle:

During the summer months, asexual females give live birth to clonal offspring (see photo). These offspring undergo 4 molts during larval development to become (A) unwinged or (B) winged asexually reproducing adults. Winged individuals are  induced by crowding or stress during either prenatal or early larval stages; they are more able to disperse to colonize a new plant. After repeated cycles of asexual reproduction with generation time of about 10 days, shorter autumn day lengths trigger the production of © unwinged sexual females and (D) males, which can be winged or unwinged in pea aphids, depending on genotype.After mating, sexual females deposit (E) overwintering eggs, which hatch in the spring to produce (F) wingless, asexual foundress females. In some populations, especially in locations without a cold winter, the sexual and egg-producing portions of the life cycle are eliminated, leading to continuous cycles of asexual reproduction.

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Ant farmers

mutualism between ants and aphids

Ants and aphids have developed a mutualistic relationship with each other similar to the one between a farmer and his cattle. Aphids are known to suck sugar-rich fluids from the plants they are feeding on, to get adequate nutrition from these  low nitrogen fluids the aphids must consume a lot of fluid, a large amount of food means a large amount of waste which is excreted as honeydew. This honeydew is high in sugar, this sugar is what the ants are after. Ants will actually milk the aphids by stroking the insects with their antennae stimulating them to release their honeydew, which the ants then take (some aphids have lost the ability to excrete the honeydew without ants to milk them). To keep their "cattle" population producing honeydew the ants will keep the aphids safe from predators, and will actually move the aphids to a new plant when one runs dry. In some cases ants have been known to care for their aphids during the winter by carried the aphid eggs into their home and care for them until spring. While it might seem that the ants really care for the aphids they have their own interests in mind, and will stop aphid populations from growing wings and even disabling their ability to walk with a  type of semiochemical.

Video

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look at all the flower buds on my selenicereus grandiflorus plant! 🌱widely known in india as the “brahma kamalam” (lord brahma’s flower), the selenicereus grandiflorus is a cactus species originating from the antilles, mexico and central america 🌵 the species is commonly referred to as “nightblooming cereus” or “queen of the night” because of its sweet, vanilla-scented flowers which bloom once or several times a year and ONLY at night time, and they wilt several hours after blooming. 🌸

i’ll try to post a photo of the flowers once they bloom (if i can get the photo before they wilt) 😁

the flower bud in the second and third pictures was infected with oleander (a.k.a. milkweed) aphids (the lil yellow bugs). and it’s well known that ladybirds love eating different species of aphids! 🐞🐞🐞

follow me on instagram, i’m more active on insta! @bare__roots