Hemolymph circulation in insects is driven primarily by the contractile action of a dorsal vessel, which is divided into an abdominal heart and a thoracic aorta. As holometabolous insects, mosquitoes undergo striking morphological and physiological changes during metamorphosis. This study presents a comprehensive structural and functional analysis of the larval and adult dorsal vessel in the malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae. Using intravital video imaging we show that, unlike the adult heart, the larval heart contracts exclusively in the anterograde direction and does not undergo heartbeat directional reversals. The larval heart contracts 24% slower than the adult heart, and hemolymph travels across the larval dorsal vessel at a velocity that is 68% slower than what is seen in adults. By fluorescently labeling muscle tissue we show that although the general structure of the heart and its ostia are similar across life stages, the heart-associated alary muscles are significantly less robust in larvae. Furthermore, unlike the adult ostia, which are the entry points for hemolymph into the heart, the larval ostia are almost entirely lacking in incurrent function. Instead, hemolymph enters the larval heart through incurrent openings located at the posterior terminus of the heart. These posterior openings are structurally similar across life stages, but in adults have an opposite, excurrent function. Finally, the larval aorta and heart differ significantly in the arrangement of their cardiomyocytes. In summary, this study provides an in-depth developmental comparison of the circulatory system of larval and adult mosquitoes.
© 2015. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.