Rachel Hutchinson, second year SWBio DTP student based at the University of Bristol, published a paper using a high-powered scanning electron microscope to examine how the African tsetse fly sucks up blood.
The African tsetse fly is responsible for transferring sleeping sickness (human African trypanosomiasis, HAT) and the livestock disease nagana/African animal trypanosomiasis (AAT) when feeding from a range of hosts. To understand the development of these trypansomes, the proboscis (pierces the skin when feeding) was re-examined.
Interestingly (and surprisingly!), they discovered that the tip of the tube that sucks up the blood forms an intricate structure of finger-like projections with suckers. Future work will be carried out to identify the function of this structure.
Paper: ‘Microarchitecture of the tsetse fly proboscis’ by W. Gibson, L. Peacock and R. Hutchinson in Parasites & Vectors