Extensive research into Drosophila melanogaster embryogenesis has improved our understanding of insect developmental mechanisms. However, Drosophila development is thought to be highly divergent from that of the ancestral insect and arthropod in many respects. We therefore need alternative models for arthopod development that are likely to be more representative of basally-branching clades. The cricket Gryllus bimaculatus is such a model, and currently has the most sophisticated functional genetic toolkit of any hemimetabolous insect. The existing cricket embryonic staging system is fragmentary, and it is based on morphological landmarks that are not easily visible on a live, undissected egg. To address this problem, here we present a complementary set of "egg stages" that serve as a guide for identifying the developmental progress of a cricket embryo from fertilization to hatching, based solely on the external appearance of the egg. These stages were characterized using a combination of brightfield timelapse microscopy, timed brightfield micrographs, confocal microscopy, and measurements of egg dimensions. These egg stages are particularly useful in experiments that involve egg injection (including RNA interference, targeted genome modification, and transgenesis), as injection can alter the speed of development, even in control treatments. We also use 3D reconstructions of fixed embryo preparations to provide a comprehensive description of the morphogenesis and anatomy of the cricket embryo during embryonic rudiment assembly, germ band formation, elongation, segmentation, and appendage formation. Finally, we aggregate and schematize a variety of published developmental gene expression patterns. This work will facilitate further studies on G. bimaculatus development, and serve as a useful point of reference for other studies of wild type and experimentally manipulated insect development in fields from evo-devo to disease vector and pest management.
Keywords: Embryogenesis; Ensifera; Germ band; Gryllus bimaculatus; Hemimetabola; Katatrepsis; Morphogenesis; Orthoptera; Staging; Two-spotted cricket.
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