Ticks found able to survive being subjected to electron microscopy

March 19, 2012 by Bob Yirka weblog
SEM observation of H. flava. (a) Whole body, (b) upper body, (c) capitulum, (d) 4th article, (e) spiracular plate, (f) claw and pulvilus of nymph are shown. Image: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032676

(PhysOrg.com) -- Most people know that ticks are rather hardy little creatures, killing them generally takes some severe bashing with a blunt object, or incineration in an open fire. But few likely suspected they would be able to withstand the extreme conditions a typical specimen undergoes in order to be viewed properly under a scanning electron microscope (SEM). But, clearly they can as Yasuhito Ishigaki and his colleagues at Japan’s Kanazawa Medical University recently discovered. As they describe in their paper published in PloS One, most of the ticks they placed in their SEM survived not only the ordeal, but were able to walk away afterwards.

A SEM works by recording how electrons are scattered or absorbed when fired at a specimen, which is of course rather harsh treatment. Making things even harsher is the fact that in order to create the very sharpest images possible, the specimen is held in a vacuum to prevent air and particles from messing up the image. Most organisms would succumb in minutes to either condition, but somehow, the managed to survive and to be taped doing so. In the video the team made, the ticks’ legs can be seen moving. And if that weren’t enough, the ticks were able to walk away once they were removed from the SEM, proof positive that ticks will now have to be added to the list of hardiest organisms on the planet.

Video from Ishigaki et al.

The ticks didn’t go unscathed however, as they all died within a couple of days after being scanned, rather than live another couple of weeks which would have been the norm. Also, in true horror-movie fashion, the ticks, eerily, seemed to be trying to fold their legs in during the electron blast to avoid having them cooked.

The team reports that they stumbled into their experiment with the ticks and SEM when Ishigaki found some ticks had survived being subjected to a vacuum chamber involved in a different procedure. They also report that they’re almost certain the shortened life span brought about by being scanned by the SEM was due to the electron beam blast rather than the vacuum because they subjected some of the ticks to just the vacuum and found they lived as long as they normally would have afterwards.

Explore further: Rhode Island deer tick effort under way

More information: Ishigaki Y, Nakamura Y, Oikawa Y, Yano Y, Kuwabata S, et al. (2012) Observation of Live Ticks (Haemaphysalis flava) by Scanning Electron Microscopy under High Vacuum Pressure. PLoS ONE 7(3): e32676. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032676

Scanning electron microscopes (SEM), which image sample surfaces by scanning with an electron beam, are widely used for steric observations of resting samples in basic and applied biology. Various conventional methods exist for SEM sample preparation. However, conventional SEM is not a good tool to observe living organisms because of the associated exposure to high vacuum pressure and electron beam radiation. Here we attempted SEM observations of live ticks. During 1.5×10^−3 Pa vacuum pressure and electron beam irradiation with accelerated voltages (2–5 kV), many ticks remained alive and moved their legs. After 30-min observation, we removed the ticks from the SEM stage; they could walk actively under atmospheric pressure. When we tested 20 ticks (8 female adults and 12 nymphs), they survived for two days after SEM observation. These results indicate the resistance of ticks against SEM observation. Our second survival test showed that the electron beam, not vacuum conditions, results in tick death. Moreover, we describe the reaction of their legs to electron beam exposure. These findings open the new possibility of SEM observation of living organisms and showed the resistance of living ticks to vacuum condition in SEM. These data also indicate, for the first time, the usefulness of tick as a model system for biology under extreme condition.

via DiscoverBlogs

Related Stories

Rhode Island deer tick effort under way

November 4, 2005

Thirty tick-killing bait stations have been deployed in Rhode Island for what's believed to be the largest tick control project in the nation.

New tick-borne disease discovered

September 20, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Yale School of Public Health researchers in collaboration with Russian scientists have discovered a new tick-borne bacterium that might be causing disease in the United States and elsewhere. Their findings ...

Counting the cost of pesticide resistance

September 15, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers from the Beef CRC have developed a new test which could help producers minimise acaricide resistance in cattle ticks (Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus).

Getting rid of cattle fever ticks

November 2, 2010

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have developed two strategies to ward off cattle fever ticks that are crossing the border from Mexico into the United States. These ticks transmit bovine babesiosis, ...

Recommended for you

World's smallest tape recorder is built from microbes

November 23, 2017

Through a few clever molecular hacks, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have converted a natural bacterial immune system into a microscopic data recorder, laying the groundwork for a new class of technologies ...

A possible explanation for how germlines are rejuvenated

November 23, 2017

(Phys.org)—A pair of researchers affiliated with the University of California and Calico Life Sciences, has discovered a possible explanation regarding how human germlines are rejuvenated. In their paper published in the ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Mar 19, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
not rated yet Mar 19, 2012
Japanese like everything ultrafresh... No animals were harmed during the making of this movie. I'd ask a doubler, being at place of that tick though..
5 / 5 (2) Mar 19, 2012
haha. basically, somebody found a tick and said, "i'm gonna kill this bugger" and when it didn't die, they were like, "shoot, let's publish this!"

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.