Based on a recent study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Washington, mosquitos track their victims using their smell sense. After identifying their potential victims, mosquitos rely afterwards on their sight to determine the species of their future hosts.
Scientists have been paying increasing attention to mosquitos as these species can be quite dangerous to humans as a result of the numerous diseases they spread. According to the recent medical findings, these insects are responsible for many of the cases of malaria, yellow fever, incidences of the West Nile virus, etc. For that matter, it is important to carefully study their behavior and to identify the possible solutions that can be adopted against their reproduction.
Jeff Riffell, biology professor at the University of Washington and leader of the research has uncovered one of the greatest mysteries in relation to this species. His recent study proves that mosquitos first use their smelling sense to track down hosts, which might explain why we use repellants to keep these attackers away from our skin.
Riffell used wind tubes to observe the behavior of the insects. At a certain point, the small hole featured on the bottom of the tube released a small amount of carbon dioxide, the same gas we breathe out when we sleep. As soon as the mosquitos sensed the carbon dioxide smell they immediately oriented themselves towards the direction where the smell was coming from.
Riffell has explained that the sudden change of direction indicates that mosquitos can track down hosts using their smell. Results have shown that these insects need no more than 30 feet to sense the closest victim. Once they have tracked down the potential blood donor, mosquitos will adapt their vision to determine whether the future host is a human or an animal. They may change their biting techniques, based on the genus of the victim, but this is the subject of a future study.
Scientists will further study this aspect and they will particularly focus on mosquitos’ brain response to different types of smells. Riffell plans to create a classification of the smells that attract and/or reject mosquitos.
The researcher has concluded by saying that the recent finding could be of great use to medical experts. Thanks to them, doctors could soon identify the best methods to fight disease-spreading mosquitos and to keep people protected.
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