The annual UC Davis Research Symposium on the Designated Emphasis in the Biology of Vector-Borne Diseases (DEBVPD) takes place from 3 to 8 p.m., Thursday, May 3 in the Putah Creek Lodge, and will feature two speakers and a graduate student poster session.
Addressing the gathering will be speakers Lark Coffey, member of the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and research director Stéphane Blanc of the program, Biology and Genetics of Plant-Pathogen Interactions at the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) in Montpellier, France.
The event begins with opening remarks at 3:10, followed by Coffey's presentation at 3:20 on “Contrasting Virulence and Transmissibility in Disparate hosts: A Zika Virus Mutation that Associates with Fetal Death in Rhesus Macaques Reduces Transmission by Aedes aegypti Mosquitoes.”
The graduate student poster session begins at 4:05 p.m., with Laura Backus, Nicholas Booster, Marisa Donnelly, Jessica Franco, Karen Holcomb, William Louie, Risa Pesapane, Benjamin Plourde, Maribel Portilla, Jennifer Reed, Kasen Riemersma, Pascale Stiles and Olivia Winokur presenting.Blanc's address follows at 5:30 p.m. on "Current Research Trends in the Interaction between Plant Viruses and Insect Vectors."
Coffey focuses her research on the ecology and evolution of arthropod-borne viruses, including Zika, West Nile and Chikungunya. They are significant causes of human disease, with no vaccines or treatments beyond palliative care.
Her team seeks to understand patterns of viral molecular evolution in enzootic and epidemic settings and the viral genetic factors that promote emergence of epidemic variants via host range changes. Studies also focus on how intrahost arboviral genetic diversity generated by error-prone viral replication to produce minority variants influences infectivity and transmissibility in mosquito and vertebrate hosts. The team is also developing approaches to improve arbovirus surveillance.
Coffey received her bachelor's degree in biology at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tenn., and her doctorate in experimental pathology from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas. She then conducted research at the Institut Pastuer in Paris, France, and at the University of San Francisco.
Blanc has been with INRA Montpellier since 1997 and with his current research unit since 2004. He studies interactions among viruses, insect vectors and plant hosts. His group works at multiple scales from molecular to viral genetics and population dynamics. In addition, he has an innovative focus on understanding multipartite viruses.
He received his undergraduate degree in biology of populations and organisms from the University of Montpellier. His doctoral research, also at the University of Montpellier, addressed molecular mechanisms of plant virus transmission by insect vectors. After receiving his doctorate in 1993, he studied plant virus vector-transmission at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, with Professor T. P. Pirone.
The Department of Entomology and Nematology and the Department of Plant Pathology are home to the Designated Emphasis in the Biology of Vector-borne Diseases (DEBVBD).
A pond attracts dragonflies and damselflies.
Last weekend, though, we spotted a damselfly a good 65 feet away from our pond. It touched down on our passion flower vine (Passiflora). Lights, camera, action...
The enlarged photo revealed a surprise: a cluster of something reddish-orange beneath the thorax.
Now that's something you don't see every day!
"Water mites," said native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. (There are also images on BugGuide.net.)
"Phoresy," said entomology graduate student Lesle Saul-Gershenz, and professor Sharon Lawler, both of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Phoresy is a symbiotic relationship in which one organism transports another organism of a different species. Bottom line: these bright red mites, from the tick family, are hitchhikers that feed on body fluids. They jump off when the host drops down over a new pond or wetland.
What's the effect of water mites on damselflies? Surely, that parasitic load of arachnid hitchhikers must be cumbersome.
Scientists Jose Andres and Adolfo Cordero of the Universidade de Vigo, Pontevedra, Spain, took a close look at parasitism in their research “Effect of Water Mites on the Damselfly, Ceriagrion tenellum,” published in a 2002 edition of Ecological Entomology.
They pointed out:
1. "Water mite parasitism is expected to have an important effect on damselfly survivorship and reproductive success, because mites drain considerable amounts of body fluids from their hosts," they wrote in their abstract. "This study tests the effect of water mite parasitism in a marked population of the damselfly Ceriagrion tenellum during 1995 (individuals marked as mature adults) and 1996 (individuals marked as tenerals)."
2. "Almost all teneral individuals were parasitized (98%) and mites were aggregated strongly on some individuals. Parasite load increased during the season."
3. "Parasites had no effect on the probability of recapture of hosts as mature adults. The average daily survival rate of lightly- and heavily-parasitized individuals, estimated with Jolly's stochastic method, did not differ significantly."
4. "In 1995 parasites had a significant effect on host mating success. The probability of mating was about 25% lower for heavily parasitized males than for lightly parasitized males. Lightly parasitized males also mated more times than heavily parasitized males, even if heavily parasitized males lived longer. In 1996, parasitism did not have an effect on male mating success. In both years mites had no effect on female lifetime mating success."
In conclusion, they found that "water mite parasitism does not reduce damselfly survivorship, but it could reduce male mating success in some circumstances. Further long-term studies are needed, especially in populations with a lower incidence of parasitism."
As for our little damselfly, it lumbered away with its distinctive load of little red hitchhikers clinging to its thorax...
That would be "the rapidly evolving soapberry bugs."
Hugh Dingle, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, will present a UC Davis Department of Entomology seminar from 12:10 to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 10 in 122 Briggs Hall.
His topic: "And the Beak Shall Inherit: Contemporary Local and Reverse Evolution in Morphology and Life History in American and Australian Soapberry Bugs."
Professor Sharon Lawler of the Department of Entomology faculty will introduce him.
During his 20-year tenure on the UC Davis faculty, Dingle studied various aspects of insect migration “and especially the relation between migration and the evolution of life histories.”
“One aspect of these studies,” he said, “was the rapid contemporary evolution of insects (soapberry bugs) on introduced host plants (golden rain trees), including the interesting genetic relationships between feeding habits and variation in the ability to fly and migrate.”
His seminar will focus on laboratory-selection experiments on North American soapberry bugs designed to assess the genetic relationships among rapidly evolving traits, including the feeding apparatus and the structure and function of wings and wing muscles, necessary to migratory behavior.
“The bugs respond rapidly to selection for both forward and reverse evolution, demonstrating that the genetic variation necessary for evolution is present in the bugs even after intense natural selection,” Dingle said.
Of particular interest is a genetic correlation between mouthpart structure and wing morph frequency so the two traits share genes and evolve together. “The ecology of the bugs reveals why this might be the case,” he said. “A similar rapidly evolving soapberry bug system exists in Australia allowing intercontinental comparisons of contemporary evolution in these bugs as a consequence of the introduction of exotic host plants.”
For the last seven years, Dingle has been living and doing research at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. Now a resident of Davis, he is continuing his research from his headquarters in the Lawler lab.
Dingle received his bachelor's degree in zoology, with honors, from Cornell University, and his master's and doctorate degrees in zoology from the University of Michigan.
Meanwhile, be sure to check out UC Davis researcher Scott Carroll's website on soapberry bugs. Carroll, also associated with the Lawler lab, maintains a Flickr site and invites images of soapberry bugs.
Evolution in action...