Enjoy amazing imaging from the world of sexual reproduction and discover new research!
In this special Cell Picture Show, presented by Current Biology and sponsored by ZEISS, we pay homage to the fascinating biology of sex. Sex is a paradoxical phenomenon: not only because pleasure and pain are often so close together, but also because it’s such a fundamental aspect of life. Yet biologists are still trying to understand why it exists in the first place.
Sexual reproduction is everywhere—nearly all life forms practice it one way or the other. But sex as we know it comes at a cost: because there are two sexes, the reproductive output is essentially cut in half (two individuals are needed to reproduce). So, there must be significant benefits to outweigh these costs, or else sex wouldn’t have evolved.
Additionally we’d like to introduce you to new scientific publications from ZEISS confocal and X-ray microscopists that present impressive and never-before-seen insights into insects’ reproductive organs:
Reduction of female copulatory damage by resilin represents evidence for tolerance in sexual conflict
Intergenomic evolutionary conflicts increase biological diversity. In sexual conflict, female defence against males is generally assumed to be resistance, which, however, often leads to trait exaggeration but not diversification. Jan Michels et al. address in their study whether tolerance, a female defence mechanism known from interspecific conflicts, exists in sexual conflict. They examined the traumatic insemination of female bed bugs via cuticle penetration by males, a textbook example of sexual conflict. Confocal laser scanning microscopy with ZEISS LSM 700 revealed large proportions of the soft and elastic protein resilin in the cuticle of the spermalege, the female defence organ. Read the full open access publication at the journal Interface of the Royal Society.
Integrated 3D view of postmating responses by the Drosophila melanogaster female reproductive tract, obtained by micro-computed tomography scanning
D. melanogaster pair in copula at 10 min ASM. Successive micro-CT longitudinal sections move from the outside to the center of the fly, and back out again. Mattei et al, PNAS 2015.
Physiological changes in females during and after mating are triggered by seminal fluid components in conjunction with female-derived molecules. In insects, these changes include increased egg production, storage of sperm, and changes in muscle contraction within the reproductive tract (RT). Such postmating changes have been studied in dissected RT tissues, but understanding their coordination in vivo requires a holistic view of the tissues and their interrelationships. Alexandra Mattei et al. used high-resolution, multiscale micro-computed tomography (CT) scans to visualize and measure postmating changes in situ in the Drosophila female RT before, during, and after mating. Read the publication at PNAS and let yourself be amazed by the 3D X-ray microscopy imaging, courtesy of Mark Riccio (Cornell Imaging) and ZEISS Xradia Versa.