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Microcrystals coating the wing membranes of a living insect (Psocoptera: Psyllipsocidae) from a Brazilian cave.

Lienhard C, Ferreira RL, Gnos E, Hollier J, Eggenberger U, Piuz A - Sci Rep (2012)

Bottom Line: They did not exhibit any signs of reduced vitality in the field and their morphology is completely normal.Guano probably played a role in its formation; the presence of iron may be a consequence of the excretion of iron by the common vampire bat.This enigmatic phenomenon lacks obvious biological significance but may inspire bionic applications.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Natural History Museum of the City of Geneva, CP 6434, CH-1211 Geneva 6, Switzerland. charleslienhard@bluewin.ch

ABSTRACT
Two specimens of Psyllipsocus yucatan with black wings were found with normal individuals of this species on guano piles produced by the common vampire bat Desmodus rotundus. These specimens have both pairs of wings dorsally and ventrally covered by a black crystalline layer. They did not exhibit any signs of reduced vitality in the field and their morphology is completely normal. This ultrathin (1.5 µm) crystalline layer, naturally deposited on a biological membrane, is documented by photographs, SEM micrographs, energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) and X-ray diffractometry (XRD). The crystalline deposit contains iron, carbon and oxygen, but the mineral species could not be identified. Guano probably played a role in its formation; the presence of iron may be a consequence of the excretion of iron by the common vampire bat. This enigmatic phenomenon lacks obvious biological significance but may inspire bionic applications. Nothing similar has ever been observed in terrestrial arthropods.

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Psyllipsocus yucatan, black female, body length 1.3 mm.(a) Habitus in latero-dorsal view, black layer slightly damaged near apex of left fore wing, revealing transparent wing membrane and light brown veins. (b) Same in ventral view.
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f4: Psyllipsocus yucatan, black female, body length 1.3 mm.(a) Habitus in latero-dorsal view, black layer slightly damaged near apex of left fore wing, revealing transparent wing membrane and light brown veins. (b) Same in ventral view.

Mentions: When first examining the black specimens under a stereomicroscope it became immediately evident that the black colour of the wings was not due to pigmentation of the wing membrane but to a uniform black deposit on their surfaces giving them a velvety aspect (Figures 4, 5). This black layer is generally absent on rugose parts of the wings (margin and veins). However, it homogeneously covers the dorsal and ventral surface of the membrane of fore wings and hind wings, except for their basal-most parts and of some limited places where it is slightly damaged (probably due to manipulation of the specimen during collecting and/or sorting in the laboratory, see Figure 4). The remaining body of the specimens is completely clean, except for a few small spots of black substance on dorsal side of the abdomen in the male (Figure 5a). General and genital morphology of the black male and the black female exactly correspond to Psyllipsocus yucatan, therefore the black specimens could be assigned to this species, which is common in Tiquara cave (see Introduction). They apparently differ from the normal form of P. yucatan only by the presence of the enigmatic black layer on wing membranes.


Microcrystals coating the wing membranes of a living insect (Psocoptera: Psyllipsocidae) from a Brazilian cave.

Lienhard C, Ferreira RL, Gnos E, Hollier J, Eggenberger U, Piuz A - Sci Rep (2012)

Psyllipsocus yucatan, black female, body length 1.3 mm.(a) Habitus in latero-dorsal view, black layer slightly damaged near apex of left fore wing, revealing transparent wing membrane and light brown veins. (b) Same in ventral view.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3351784&req=5

f4: Psyllipsocus yucatan, black female, body length 1.3 mm.(a) Habitus in latero-dorsal view, black layer slightly damaged near apex of left fore wing, revealing transparent wing membrane and light brown veins. (b) Same in ventral view.
Mentions: When first examining the black specimens under a stereomicroscope it became immediately evident that the black colour of the wings was not due to pigmentation of the wing membrane but to a uniform black deposit on their surfaces giving them a velvety aspect (Figures 4, 5). This black layer is generally absent on rugose parts of the wings (margin and veins). However, it homogeneously covers the dorsal and ventral surface of the membrane of fore wings and hind wings, except for their basal-most parts and of some limited places where it is slightly damaged (probably due to manipulation of the specimen during collecting and/or sorting in the laboratory, see Figure 4). The remaining body of the specimens is completely clean, except for a few small spots of black substance on dorsal side of the abdomen in the male (Figure 5a). General and genital morphology of the black male and the black female exactly correspond to Psyllipsocus yucatan, therefore the black specimens could be assigned to this species, which is common in Tiquara cave (see Introduction). They apparently differ from the normal form of P. yucatan only by the presence of the enigmatic black layer on wing membranes.

Bottom Line: They did not exhibit any signs of reduced vitality in the field and their morphology is completely normal.Guano probably played a role in its formation; the presence of iron may be a consequence of the excretion of iron by the common vampire bat.This enigmatic phenomenon lacks obvious biological significance but may inspire bionic applications.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Natural History Museum of the City of Geneva, CP 6434, CH-1211 Geneva 6, Switzerland. charleslienhard@bluewin.ch

ABSTRACT
Two specimens of Psyllipsocus yucatan with black wings were found with normal individuals of this species on guano piles produced by the common vampire bat Desmodus rotundus. These specimens have both pairs of wings dorsally and ventrally covered by a black crystalline layer. They did not exhibit any signs of reduced vitality in the field and their morphology is completely normal. This ultrathin (1.5 µm) crystalline layer, naturally deposited on a biological membrane, is documented by photographs, SEM micrographs, energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) and X-ray diffractometry (XRD). The crystalline deposit contains iron, carbon and oxygen, but the mineral species could not be identified. Guano probably played a role in its formation; the presence of iron may be a consequence of the excretion of iron by the common vampire bat. This enigmatic phenomenon lacks obvious biological significance but may inspire bionic applications. Nothing similar has ever been observed in terrestrial arthropods.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus