Saturday, 11 October 2014

Meet the Insects - Rose Aphid

Rose Aphid Wikipedia Creative Commmon Karl 432
For a long time I've been both fascinated and repulsed by parthenogenesis - the process by which a female insect (or plant, or maybe even a reptile, amphibian or fish) creates offspring on her own, without any input from a male. The young are formed from an unfertilised egg which somehow is triggered to divide. In humans it's fertilisation, the fusing of the egg and sperm which triggers the cell divisions that eventually form a child. When Dolly the sheep was made the nucleus from an udder cell was placed inside the an egg cell so that had the nucleus removed. This cell was triggered to divide by an electric shock. Mary Shelley wasn't so far off with Frankenstein and galvanism.

Partly it's Frankenstein that haunts us. "Curiosity killed the cat" a student said to me in our Frankenscience Project.  But with parthenogenesis it's more. The thought of all those identical insects horrifies me - perhaps because like most human beings I prize, perhaps even over-invest in my individuality. Identical twins don't horrify me, perhaps because human experience never allows anyone to stay the same for long.

It's also the fear of the plague, the fear of reproduction out of control. It's the dread of every other American Senator apparently - the fear of women's sexuality and fertility out of control.

But I don't think that's my deep down horror (thankfully). I think it's all these generations of females each indistinguishable from the mother, the grandmother, the great grandmother. Freud, or maybe Lacan would have a field day.