Living With Amino Acid Balance II

Tsetse

Tsetse
Photo: IAEA

Most insects receive insufficient proteins and amino acids in their diet. Blood feeding insects have the opposite problem: too much protein. Terrestrial insects typically process excess amino acid nitrogen into uric acid, which can be excreted with little loss of water. Uric acid has low water solubility and is less toxic to insects than other nitrogen containing molecules such as ammonia.

The female tsetse fly, Glossina morsitans, the vector of African sleeping sickness feeds on the blood of livestock.  It excretes up to 50% of the weight of its blood meal as uric acid and other waste products. The female tsetse fly has an overabundance of amino acids and is deficient in other dietary components. Sufficient blood is ingested to meet the other dietary requiements and the diet balanced by excreting uric acid.  Although the tsetse fly is wasteful of protein and amino acids, those are easily obtained. Eggs can be produced more efficiently by an overeating, wasteful lifestyle.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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One Response to Living With Amino Acid Balance II

  1. Pingback: Living With Amino Acid Balance II – Entomo Planet

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