Thursday, 5 May 2011

Amazing tree hoppers!

I was led to this fascinating article about tree hoppers by the Discover Magazine blog.  These tree hoppers have evolved bizarre structures from the first segment of their thorax (the middle blob of the body, between head and thorax) and no-one really knows what they're for, but even more interestingly, it seems these structures are modified wings.

Now everyone knows that insects only have wings on segments 2 and 3 (T2 and T3) of the thorax (you did know that, didn't you?) so for modified wings to spring from T1 comes as something of a surprise.

Turns out that some early insects did indeed have wings on T1, but in modern insects the genes that are expressed in wing growth are suppressed by another gene in T1.  Except not in tree hoppers.  In tree hoppers that suppression doesn't seem to work properly, and these bizarre growths occur.

It's worth visiting the site just to look at the pictures, believe me!

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