Insect-fungus symbiosis: a scale insect feeds her own roof!

Scale insects are often associated to fungus. Females secreting honeydew trigger sooty mold growth and harm the host-plant. Induced undesirable sooty mold on plants makes scale insects some of the most damaging phytophagous insects.  For instance, Cryptococcus fagisuga, a felt scale insect living on beech trees is associated to a fungus called Neonectria coccinea that will grow from the holes created by the insect’s puncture hole from which it feeds. Ultimately, the mold growth becomes more lethal to the tree than the insect. This is so true that I remember my Master mentor telling me that beech trees have almost disappeared from Paris because of this species!

Sooty mold are also harmful to scale insects, as the female secreting honeydew are sessile and they would literally die in their own moldy poop. This is when ants comes into play as essential mutualistic animals: by profiting from scale insect honeydew droplets as a food source, ants naturally clean their secretive waste, preventing sooty mold growth.

Images showing the fungus structure in which the mealybug lives in (left) and details of fungus mealybug interaction (right) . Source: modified from Gavrilov (2017)

In an extraordinary situation, a species of scale insects from the mealybug family (Pseudococcidae) has taken advantage of mold and developed a unique symbiosis with a fungus species. Orbuspedum machinator, a newly described species from bamboo twigs of Thailand, has legless females and uses hyphae of a fungus Capnodium species to make herself a roof. In exchange, the mealybug secretes honeydew and feed the fungus.

A win win situation.


Hypothetical scheme of the formation of a fungal domicile by Orbuspedum machinator gen. et sp. nov. (Gavrilov 2017)



Open access: Gavrilov (2017) An amazing symbiosis between an animal and a fungus in a new species of legless mealybug (Insecta: Pseudococcidae)



Manuscript self-archiving #1: many questions!

Hello all!

If you have read the Preprint , you know that I am trying to act and become 100% open access with my manuscripts. I made a list of the publications with links to the PDFs available online without a paywall (if the paper is open access or available in other websites) but there are still a few publications that require a subscription to the journal.

I thought it would be interesting to write about my “becoming open access” process as it seems that it will be tricky (but I am sure feasible) for a few reasons:

1-  Which version of the manuscript is acceptable to make a preprint of when the manuscript has already been published?

  • Should I use the first submission version (but sometimes major changes have been done before the second submission)?
  • Can I make a preprint of the resubmission (without the publisher’s proofreading)?
  • Or can I make a preprint of the last version of the manuscript before they prepared the layout?

2- Are there any publishers that do not allow at all to have a preprint version of my work after I published it?

For instance, what does that mean??

Screen Shot 2018-01-19 at 14.41.19.png

Please don’t judge me for signing things I don’t understand, I was a naive Ph.D. student that wanted to have a publication (Okay you can judge me….)



New research life in Edinburgh: fieldwork in California, blogging about nature crazy sex life and more

2017-04-11 11.54.31
Vine mealybugs in North California vineyard

Hello everyone,

A lot has happened since I moved to Edinburgh. Here are the main updates:

  • I am currently carrying out fieldwork in California until May, and looking for obscure mealybugs with B chromosomes. Follow me on Twitter!
  • In August, you will see me at ESEB2017 in Groningen, where I will present my work on scale insect adult metamorphosis.

Why should biologists use GitHub?

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from GitHub repository here

Today, all biologists use computers on a daily basis, produce and analyse data. A lot of us now have to learn programming (even just some bits of it).

I am not a computer scientist/engineer, and I am far from a bioinformatics person (yet), but I have started to discipline myself to make my published research as reproducible as possible and this is not only by depositing DNA sequence data to NCBI, but also analysis pipelines and command lines made available to the public on GitHub.

GitHub is a great public repository hosting service for publishing programming source code, but it can also be used to detail your analysis pipeline and code, and even create tutorials on softwares or pipelines for others.

For example, the Trinity tutorial from Brian Haas was a life saver for a biologist like me that had never touched any next-generation sequencing data.

As a biologist, to support my recent publication on scale insect phylogenetics, I created a GitHub repository that details all the steps and command lines in MrBayes and R analyses. This provides transparency to the reader and more rapid reproducibility.

Tip: If you are worried about your analysis pipeline or data being online during the manuscript review process, academic researchers can apply for free space for 5 private repositories. For more information, check here.

Nowadays, a lot of biologists will come to work in a multidisciplinary environment, and it implies learning new skills. In bioinformatics in particular, workshops are available but the internet is a great resource to learn skills by ourselves and GitHub can help both learning how a software works, but also making the details of informatics methods available to other biologists that are also learning how to use these softwares (from command lines for de novo assembly using Trinity or making a simple plot with R).



SICB2016: Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting

Kicking off 2016 with the SICB annual meeting which is taking place in Portland and starting on January 3rd.

I will be presenting poster and oral presentations related to my postdoctoral work on the hormonal regulation of extreme sexual dimorphism in scale insects.

This is my first SICB meeting and I am excited to meet people working on other taxonomic groups than insects!

Follow #SICB2016 on Twitter for live updated of the meeting.

10th International Conference on Juvenile Hormone

The 10th International Conference on Juvenile Hormone will be held at Tsukuba (not far from Tokyo) between June 9th and 13th.

This conference takes place every four years or so. The last one was in 2007 though, and this one was supposed to happen in 2011 in Japan but was cancelled because of the earthquake (Dr Minakuchi, pers. com.).

This will be my first conference outside the field of systematics/phylogeny/scale insects, in which I will present our preliminary results on scale insect sexual dimorphism linked with Juvenile Hormone.

Five big names in the field of JH will give plenary lectures: Xavier Belles, Marek Jindra, Reddy Palli, Alexander Raikhel and Lynn Riddiford.

Additionally, there are some exciting talks I am looking forward to, such as the action of JH in insect embryos (J.W. Truman), JH and aphid polyphenism (T. Miura)  etc.. There seems to have quite a diverse range of study organisms as well, which is exciting!

For a glance at next week program -> here