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Technoscience

The call of speciation

Daniel BuenoFor some time, science has been gathering evidence that Lutzomyia longipalpis – the main transmitter of the protozoan that causes visceral leishmaniasis in the Americas – is not just a species of insect, but a complex of sister species, practically indistinguishable from a morphological standpoint. Their differences can only be seen through the lens of genetics. A recent study confirms this idea and presents a mechanism that may explain the phenomenon. According to a project coordinated by researchers from Fiocruz in Rio de Janeiro, alterations in the paralytic gene may have been a factor in the sandfly (as this vector species is commonly known) dividing itself into two major groups in Brazil according to the type of mating call used by males (PLoS One, September 7, 2012). One line is a single species of mosquito that makes buzzing sounds when mating. The other consists of several very closely related species that produce rhythmic courting calls. In fruit flies, the paralytic gene is involved in controlling the sounds produced during sex.

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