Piercing mouthparts (maxilla) of cat flea

Piercing mouthparts (maxilla) of cat flea

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Credit: K. H. KJELDSEN/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Cat flea mouthparts. Coloured scanning electron micrograph of the blood-sucking mouthparts of a cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis). In the centre is the piercing stylet, formed from the maxillae and an extension of the roof of the mouth. On either side of this are the two labial palps - modified sensory organs that form the stylet sheath. The sheath bends backwards during a bite and does not penetrate the skin. Cat fleas spend a fraction of their lives on the host and can survive for months between meals, lying in wait on the ground. When the host is nearby the flea senses its warmth and jumps blindly towards it powered by spring pads in the hind legs. Magnification unknown.

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Keywords: animal, cat, cat flea, ctenocephalides felis, flea, insect, insecta, invertebrate, invertebrates, maxilla, mouthparts, nature, parasite, stylet, wildlife, zoology

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