, 15 tweets, 10 min read Read on Twitter
FIRST UP: 1st seed Plains Zebra (Equus quagga) and Yellow-Billed Oxpecker (Buphagus africanus) vs 16th seed Batfly (Penicillidia jenynsii) and Gammaproteobacteria #2019MMM
Today's first battle pits two of the most classic mutualisms against one another. When I say classic, I mean so classic that there's actually a picture of a zebra and an oxpecker next to the definition of mutualism on Google. #2019MMM
This mutualistic relationship is very clear: oxpecker gets to make a meal of all the ticks and other harmful parasites trying to take advantage of the zebra, and the zebra gets to avoid the horrifying fate of a "ghost moose". #TrypophobicsBeware #2019MMM news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/06/150601…
Our second mutualism of this battle feels much newer to science, but is evolutionary much, much older. #2019MMM
Despite their terrifyingly spider-like appearance, batflies are specialized wingless flies that live in the fur of bats and have flattened bodies and hair and claws that make them extremely difficult for a bat to remove. #AHHHHHHHHH #2019MMM earthtouchnews.com/wtf/wtf/excuse…
Batflies actually only leave their host for one thing in their life - to put the LIVE LARVA that they BIRTH on the walls of the bat roost. #WHATtheWHAT #2019MMM
You heard me right, batflies have a UTERUS where larva hatches internally, causing the uterine walls to start leaking insect milk! Through this milk the insect larva is nourished AND directly transmitted to the young (aka vertical transmission)! #2019MMM ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/P…
It’s within these milk glands that we find our hero Gammaproteobacteria! Gammaproteobacteria is thought to produce vitamin B, which is needed for the production of DNA and proteins. You know, an important life lesson you’d want to give to your kids. #2019MMM
Our batfly requires at least one meal of sweet, sweet bat blood a day to survive. Blood is a good source of certain nutrients, but is missing vitamin B. Gammaproteobacteria may provide this to the batfly, while batfly provides a nutritive environment for the bacteria. #2019MMM
An environment so stable & nutrient rich that Gammaprotebacteria evolved to lose most of the genes required to live outside the batfly - it has a super smol genome, much like those of other endosymbiotic bacteria (symbionts within their partner) #2019MMM ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12219091
Now that we are intimately familiar with some amazing mutualisms, our battle begins on a hot day on the African savanna of Amboseli National Park. There's a herd of Plains Zebra lazily chewing on the long grass. #2019MMM
A batfly finds herself very far from her normal bat roost in East Asia, on a very different host from her normal bat bud. She had just left for a second to deposit her single larvae on the cave... #2019MMM jstage.jst.go.jp/article/seitai…
The dark stripe of the zebra seems like a good enough place to deposit her larvae. Triumphantly, she raises the larvae above her head, confident that the milk and Gammaproteobacteria she's given it will carry it through the pupa phase well. #2019MMM
Everything the dark touches will be theirs! But what's that shadow? #LifeComesAtYouPrettyFast #SometimesDeathComesAtYouFaster #2019MMM
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