Saturday, June 25, 2011

Blowfly Experimentation

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Having found a suitable environment, the adult blow fly lays up to 180 eggs and then depart, taking no further interest in them. Depending upon temperature (the optimum hatching temperature is 5oC1), humidity and species, the eggs take between one to two days to hatch. Upon hatching, the first-instar larva is small in size and whitish in colour. This is a vulnerable stage in its life cycle, prone to dehydration if conditions are a little dry, and easily drowned if the conditions are too humid. At this stage of its life cycle, it will move to the part of the carcass where conditions are most suitable for successful habitation. The first instar will last approximately one day and the second for a similar period also before moulting tot he third instar. This third instar feeds voraciously, increasing its mass and volume by up to seven times over three or four days.

The third instar is made up of 1 segments, whitish yellow in colour. On the second and twelfth segments are two pairs of spiracles, the respiratory openings that lead to the tracheal system (the system of interconnecting tubes that supply oxygen to, and remove carbon dioxide from, the tissues). At the front end of the larva, internally, lies a complicated structure, the cephalopharyngeal skeleton, which is the anterior part of the alimentary canal. It varies in structure between instars and between species.

Blowfly larvae, like all known cyclorrhaphan maggots, digest their food externally by releasing enzymes into the surrounding food. It has been suggested that this habit was a major step in the evolution of flies (Disney, 186); it is coupled with the presence of mouth hooks that act as grapnels to pull food into the mouth.

Blowfly larvae feed constantly, and are usually deeply embedded in the decomposing flesh. Light is probably the main factor that stimulates the larvae to burrow; by moving away from light they move deeper into the carcass (Patten, 114). A positive attraction to the carcass must also play a part, but the olfactory responses of maggots to the smell of meat appear not to have been investigated. Blowfly larvae produce ammonia in large amounts as an excretory product. Bolwig (146) suggests housefly larvae produce a negative olfactory response to their products of excretion; the olfactory responses of blowfly larvae have not yet been investigated in this way; maybe their is such a correlation.

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Temperature is a major factor affecting the rate of larval development. Developmental rates at various constant temperatures have been determined for a number of species (Smith 186, Reiter (184). The evidence thus far suggests that fluctuating temperatures retard development, increasing the longevity of the maggot (Greenberg, 11).

It is my strong impression that larvae that are reared at lower temperatures produce larger adults.

The larval mass is usually several degrees warmer than its surroundings, presumably because of the metabolic heat produced by the larvae. Greenberg suggests that the larvae may regulate their temperature by moving closer to one another at low temperatures, and away from one another at high temperatures. In this way larvae might keep warm enough to grow fast, while avoiding overheating.

When the larva has finished feeding, it empties its gut and leaves the carcass, usually at night. It wanders away from the carcass before burrowing into the soil; this can be for over 0 metres if they are on concrete flooring. There is evidence that the photo negative response is lessened at this stage of its life cycle; since the habitat chosen for pupation is in the top or centimetres of the soil, the larva needs to find a habitable environment away from predators but near the open so that it may fly away after pupation with ease.

The larva and the adult fly are very different organisms morphologically, ecologically and physiologically. Each stage of its development, from adult to pupa and to larva exploit entirely different habitats and there is evidence of larvae, at different stages of development, exploiting dissimilar habitats.

Like most adult insects, the adult blowflies are warmth loving animals. In unfavourable conditions, when the ambient temperature is below 4oC, the blowfly will overwinter as late third-instar larva. Although the rate of development is very much dependent upon temperature, this overwintering is a complex physiological process and not simply a decrease in temperature dependent rate of development. Temperature is not the only variable which produces this arrested development; in the case of Lucilla sericata, the larval development will be arrested by a decrease of its moisture content. Then all the larval instars of all blowfly can survive repeated subjection to -6oC for 1 hours at a time.

Blowfly larvae are subject to heavy predation since they can not fly and are present in locally high concentrations, living in a medium which is itself a favoured food of many animals. The main predators are beetles.

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