Mandible dissection

One thing I’ve learned about caterpillars is that their heads look TERRIFYING under a scope. So many appendages and hairs and spines and eyes… the mouthparts of a caterpillar look like something straight out of a horror movie.

I have never been a big fan of fiction, and it’s because there are so many crazy things in real life. I don’t see much need for making things up. Caterpillars reaffirm that belief.

Here is a shot of my first mandible dissection. I used a species of cutworm, my advisor had a bunch of extras and said I could use them as practice. I first cut off the heads, and soaked them in a solution of KOH to dissolve the soft tissue. I then attempted to hack off one of the mandibles and the hyperpharyngeal complex. Next step will be to try a few more before doing the real specimens I need to examine.

While hunting through one of the junk drawers around the lab I dug up some brand new needle point forceps, which made the process much easier.

Here is the mandible by itself.

If you have any experience with mandible dissection and have any tips, please let me know! At this point it seem to be mostly luck that I find a way to rip things apart without ruining everything.

 

 

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Posted on January 17, 2012, in Invertebrates, Lepidoptera, Noctuidae. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Some large caterpillars can really put the bite on you!

  2. The rear end of a caterpillar can be pretty scary looking too:

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