A recent study revealed that mosquitoes identify their prey by using a three step method. They use their smell, then their sight and finally they detect heat.
The study was conducted by the California Institute of Technology and it was led by Floris van Breugel. The findings of the study were published in the scientific journal Current Biology.
The fact that mosquitoes are able to track CO2 levels and heat and that they can use sight to find their prey was not news to biologists out there. But Floris van Breugel and his team found a way to identify the entire strategy that mosquitoes put into use and they managed to figure out how they utilize these three features to their advantage.
The model that they used to study the mosquitoes was a wind tunnel, in which they selectively introduced a CO2 gas source, and then provided the small subjects with a black dot as their object of interest and then with a heated glass panel that otherwise blended in with the scenery.
First, the scientists presented their mosquito subjects with a black dot in their wind tunnel setting and they all ignored it. Then, they introduced a CO2 gas, that they released from the point where the black dot was placed and all of sudden, the dot became extremely interesting to them, as they began flying around it to study it.
The scientists identified that the mosquitoes can detect the CO2 from a distance of 10-50 meters and that once they detect it, they will not resist zeroing in on the source of the gas. The researchers explained that they are attracted to the CO2 because this is present in human and animal breath, when they exhale.
They further explained that the CO2 tells them that there is a potential host close by and they will go looking for it. If they only utilized their sight, they would waste a lot of type searching rocks and plants and this would be highly unproductive, since it would imply a significant energy waste.
They seem to be able to use their sight to find their prey from 5-15 meters away. The images that they get will tell them if they are neat potential prey. Lastly, the scientists tested out their interpretation of heat, as they introduced a heated glass panel and released the CO2 around it.
Despite the fact that the panel otherwise blended in, the mosquitoes were instantly attracted to it. Their attraction to heat most likely originates in their necessity to find warm blooded animals to feed on. They most likely interpret the heat at significant blood flow and attack.
Floris van Breugel and his team of researchers revealed the three step strategy that enables the pesky critters to find their prey and attack so successfully. Getting a better understanding of the attack behavior of mosquitoes will enable researchers to find new and improved preventative measures, that are absolutely crucial for the prevention of a wide range of vector-borne diseases like malaria, Dengue fever and the West Nile viral disease.
Image Source: sciencemusings