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Evolution and neoteny

Far be it from us to want to present scientific aspects and results of centuries of research in the field of life, we only wish to understand how from the evolution of a cell, a single cell, it was possible to reach, as we are today, an exceptionally rich and varied world. , made up of many different species. In fact, let’s not forget that from “that cell” were born the thousand-year-old baobabs of Africa, American snakes, Bengal tigers, human beings, the Star of the Alps and everything we see. This is evolution, which taught the cuttlefish how to shoot ink and escape, or which transformed a particular monkey into what we are today. Well, there is a particular form of evolution, called neoteny, which is actually an involution, or a step back, or rather it is not taking a step forward in evolution, to facilitate some phases of life. For example, salamanders are large and carnivorous when adults, while when young they are small and vegetarian; in some areas of the earth where there is not enough meaty food, salamanders do not grow, that is, they never leave the larval state because otherwise they would have to jump through hoops to get food when they have a lot of vegetable available if they remain larvae. We talk about this because the plant disease we are talking about presents this characteristic in female specimens. that is, they never abandon the larval state because otherwise they would have to jump through hoops to get food when they have a lot of vegetable available if they remain larvae. We talk about this because the plant disease we are talking about presents this characteristic in female specimens. that is, they never abandon the larval state because otherwise they would have to jump through hoops to get food when they have a lot of vegetable available if they remain larvae. We talk about this because the plant disease we are talking about presents this characteristic in female specimens.

The cochineal


Cochineal is a well-known infestation of many types of plants, capable in a very short time of invading and compromising entire crops; the scale insects are nothing but tiny insects (the male is slender and thin, while the female’s body is about three times larger) which feed on the sap of plants and take their nutrients to grow and reproduce. In short, the cochineal is a parasite, which not only subtracts forces from the plant, in the form of nutrients, but above all causes a series of damaging consequences for the infested plant. Due to a particular synthesis of what is taken, the body of a cochineal needs to dispose of an incredible amount of sugary substances (especially carbohydrates), and this happens by producing a transparent and sticky molasses which they leave on the leaves and branches of the plants they infest; this molasses, with a sweet character, attracts a fungus called “fumaggine” (due to the characteristic dark gray ash-like appearance that takes on its visible part) which is greedy and therefore will follow the presence of the cochineal.

Cochineal and neoteny

At the beginning of this article we talked about the phenomenon of neoteny; it is evident in the case of the Cochineal insect species we are talking about. In fact, in this species the evolution has led to a regression of the female specimens, which lose the ability to move and walk or fly when they reach adulthood; in this lies the neoteny as explained above: evolution has allowed this insect to fly and walk, but particular living conditions have meant that it never happened again. Among other things, the females of cochineal are the absolute responsible for the damage that this parasitic species causes to many plants, including citrus fruits (lemons and oranges above all) and also other species; in fact they pierce the surface of leaves and fruits with their stilettos, similar to stingers, with which they arrive in the lymphatic transport channels of the plant and continually feed on the nutrients that pass through it, weakening the plant and making it vulnerable to other harmful elements, such as fumaggine and some viruses. The male, on the other hand, is an element that flies and «serves» only for reproduction, since it has no action against the plants that the female specimens infest.

Cochineal remedies: Remedies for cochineal

Given that the male specimens have a role that is anything but decisive (although always fundamental because they intervene in reproduction) and that the adult females are «immobile», the spread of this disease is due to the young scale insects, in the same little more than larval , when they can jump and walk quickly from one plant to another, before differentiating in sex and eventually becoming large immobile females. The fight against cochineal is also basic, albeit burdensome due to the large numbers that these species of insects can reach. Favored by hot and arid climates (in the case of hot and dry summers, autumns with above average temperatures and mild winters, a strong presence of scale insects must be expected in spring), if found on houseplants they must be removed mechanically with a cotton swab and alcohol, which stuns them and then they can be washed off; all this because chemicals against scale insects are often toxic to humans, so they should only be used in the open field. Even nature gives us its hand against the scale insects: the abundant rains wash them away, just as the strong and direct sun makes them detach and die; not only that, there is also the biological struggle: some species of beetles and hymenoptera are greedy of this insect. Even nature gives us its hand against the scale insects: the abundant rains wash them away, just as the strong and direct sun makes them detach and die; not only that, there is also the biological struggle: some species of beetles and hymenoptera are greedy of this insect. Even nature gives us its hand against the scale insects: the abundant rains wash them away, just as the strong and direct sun makes them detach and die; not only that, there is also the biological struggle: some species of beetles and hymenoptera are greedy of this insect.

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