The secret sex life of mussels uncovered at community open day

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26 Jun 2014

The public will be encouraged to mix sperm and eggs from spawning male and female freshwater mussels at The University of Manchester this weekend.

The blue mussels will be induced to spawn by placing them in warm water and then members of the public will be able to observe their sperm and watch fertilisation and embryo development in real time - fertilisation is visible within five minutes, embryo division within 30 minutes.

The exhibition is part of the Faculty of Life Sciences' Community Open Day which aims to show the public live examples of research undertaken by scientists at the University. From creepy crawlies to baby fish, microbes to animal-eating plants there are lots of fantastic things to see and do. There will be tours of the laboratories and talks throughout the event and scientists will be on hand to answer questions.

One of the tours is of the Fly Facility aimed at helping people to understand why scientists carry out research on flies. Visitors will be able to find out about the links between flies and human behaviours like aggression and motivation and will have the chance to see simple experiments to explain seizures and paralysis.

Visitors could also find themselves getting up close and personal with an array of insects and amphibians on the day. Giant millipedes and tarantulas are housed at the University and used for research and to take into schools. One highlight is the Ecuadorian beetle which forms part of the pioneering research being carried out by scientists aiming to have a better understanding of how to preserve wildlife and the culture of indigenous people in Ecuador.

Younger visitors to the University will be encouraged to take part in painting with maggots which is an unusual and hands-on activity combining art and science – the live maggots are dipped in non-toxic paint and allowed to crawl around the paper to create unique and colourful paintings.

People’s hand-washing skills will quite literally be put under the microscope during the Open Day. Participants will be invited to see how clean their hands are by using UV lights and fluorescent particles to give a non-harmful illustration of microorganisms and how they can be transiently present on hands and act as a source of contamination / infection.

Professor Matthew Cobb said: “We hope even more people will take this rare chance to see ground breaking research close at hand and ask our scientists about their work.”

The Open Day takes place on Saturday 28 June from 11am – 3pm in the Michael Smith Building, off Dover Street, at the heart of the University campus. Everyone is welcome to this free event and there is no need to book.

Notes for editors

Photos of last year’s event are attached to this press release and more are available from the press office. Please credit The University of Manchester.

Journalists are welcome to attend the open day where there will be opportunities for filming and interviews. Please contact Kath Paddison to arrange this in advance or contact her mobile 07766 571042 on the day.

Professor Matthew Cobb will be available for interviews on Friday 27 June and during the Open Day.

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