Entomologists discover first instance of intact neurons without nucleus - in fairy wasps

Dec 01, 2011 by Bob Yirka report

Fairy wasps are really tiny; so tiny, they can barely be seen with the naked eye. They’re so tiny that they’re the smallest organism when shown on a slide alongside an amoeba and a Paramecium. And because of this, a group of researchers from Moscow State University began wondering how a neurological system in such a tiny insect could work at all. As it turns out, as they describe in their paper published in Science Direct, the fairy wasp (M.mymaripenne), the third smallest of all insects, has a lot of neurons without any nucleus.

A cell’s nucleus is of course, usually pretty important, it’s where the DNA is generally stored after all. It’s also usually the part of the cell that runs things, like causing a replenishment of proteins to keep cells alive, etc. This of course got the researchers to wondering how an insect could survive if most of its had no nucleus.

The secret, the team writes, lies in the fact that the insect is so small, that neurons (with nuclei intact) that develop during the pupa stage apparently make enough protein to last the full five days of its adulthood, so, not needing them any longer, all but a few hundred of the nuclei are destroyed by bursting, making the cell smaller and saving room for other more important cells. The team notes that this is the first recorded instance of neurons existing in the wild without benefit of nuclei.

The team also found that the fairy wasp has one of the smallest nervous systems around, with just 7,400 neurons, but can still fly, search for food and figure out where to lay it’s eggs; which is inside the eggs of another tiny insect, the thrips, which itself is no bigger than a millimeter in length. It manages this feat by cramming virtually all of its nervous system into just its head, hence the need for downsizing the number of neurons and reducing cell size wherever possible.

The fairy wasp also has other adaptations that allow it to survive in its small state. It has a reduced wing surface for example which means wings that amount to little more than bare strands as opposed to the rather broad based flappers other larger insects sport, just enough to allow it to coast along with moving air.

Explore further: Dutch barnacle geese have more active immune system than same species in the North

More information: Arthropod Structure & Development, Volume 41, Issue 1, January 2012, Pages 29-34. doi:10.1016/j.asd.2011.09.001

Related Stories

Flight Artists film smallest insect in flight

May 25, 2011

The Flight Artists team from Wageningen University, the Netherlands, has been the first to make high-speed camera footage of parasitic wasps of about 1 mm wingspan.

Japanese researchers turn a crab shell transparent

Dec 01, 2011

A group of researchers working out of Kyoto University in Japan have successfully transformed a normal crab into one that is transparent. As they describe in their paper published in the British Royal Society ...

Flies' evasive move traced to sensory neurons

Nov 29, 2007

When fruit fly larvae are poked or prodded, they fold themselves up and corkscrew their bodies around, a behavior that appears to be the young insects’ equivalent of a “judo move,” say researchers reporting online on ...

Research team shows skin stem cells run by circadian clock

Nov 10, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Most everyone has heard of the circadian rhythm or the internal clock that people have that tells them when to do things, such as go to sleep. In fact, researchers have actually located where this “clock” ...

Recommended for you

Big data and the science of the Christmas tree

1 hour ago

Often called the "Cadillac of Christmas trees," the Fraser Fir has everything a good Christmas tree should have: an even triangular shape, a sweet piney fragrance, and soft needles that (mostly) stay attached ...

Study shows starving mantis females attract more males

Dec 17, 2014

A study done by Katherine Barry an evolutionary biologist with Macquarie University in Australia has led to the discovery that a certain species of female mantis attracts more males when starving, then do ...

African swine fever threatens Europe

Dec 17, 2014

African swine fever, or ASF, is a viral disease that kills almost every pig it infects and is likened to Ebola. It gained a foothold in Georgia in 2007, when contaminated pig meat landed from a ship from ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.