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Structural mechanics of the mosquito heart and its function in bidirectional hemolymph transport
Justin D. Glenn, Jonas G. King, Julián F. Hillyer


The insect circulatory system transports nutrients, signaling molecules, wastes and immune factors to all areas of the body. The primary organ driving circulation is the dorsal vessel, which consists of an abdominal heart and a thoracic aorta. Here, we present qualitative and quantitative data characterizing the heart of the mosquito, Anopheles gambiae. Visual observation showed that the heart of resting mosquitoes contracts at a rate of 1.37 Hz (82 beats per minute) and switches contraction direction, with 72% of contractions occurring in the anterograde direction (toward the head) and 28% of contractions occurring in the retrograde direction (toward the tip of the abdomen). The heart is tethered to the midline of the abdominal tergum by six complete and three incomplete pairs of alary muscles, and propels hemolymph at an average velocity of 8 mm s−1 by sequentially contracting muscle fibers oriented in a helical twist with respect to the lumen of the vessel. Hemolymph enters the heart through six pairs of incurrent abdominal ostia and one pair of ostia located at the thoraco-abdominal junction that receive hemolymph from the abdominal hemocoel and thoracic venous channels, respectively. The vessel expels hemolymph through distal excurrent openings located at the anterior end of the aorta and the posterior end of the heart. In conclusion, this study presents a comprehensive revision and expansion of our knowledge of the mosquito heart and for the first time quantifies hemolymph flow in an insect while observing dorsal vessel contractions.

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