Genitalic dissections

Of moths, not people, don’t worry.

Dissecting genitalia is one of the skills I learned at the Lep Course in Arizona. One afternoon spent poking at the naughty bits of moths is not enough to become an expert, but I’ll get plenty more practice for my own research.

We used average-sized moths, in the genus Matigramma (family Noctuidae). I’m glad they didn’t have us start on microleps! We had to identify which species we each had by examining the male genitalia. Drawings were offered for comparison (yes, that’s beer at my station, it was in the afternoon!).

I don’t remember all the preparatory steps, but we were given freshly prepared abdomens to work with. We had to brush off all the scales, and carefully pull/cut the genitalia out of the body. In the end, this is what I had:

Though its morphology did not match up perfectly (there can be some natural variation), I determined the best fit was Matigramma emmilta.

If we had to preserve the genitalia, the next step would have been to create a slide. That takes much more time and skill, something I hope to learn soon. I will be doing genitalic dissections for the moths in my group, perhaps they will help sort out some confusing species complexes (or add to the confusion).

Posted on September 15, 2011, in Arizona Lep Course, Invertebrates, Lepidoptera. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Ruud van der Weele

    Brigette, what influence had the two beer on the dissections of the genitalia?

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Ryerson Lab

Functional Morphology, Sensory Biology, Behavior, Biomechanics

I spell it nature

Trying to make sense of the world through science and language.

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