Mosquitoes

Stick me in a room with a dozen other people, introduce 1 mosquito, and I’ll be the first to get bitten. Somehow mosquitoes seem to like me, the feeling however is not mutual. Turns out that evolution has made these bloodsuckers very effective at finding human prey and also be picky about it.

The first one is obviously the visual sensory by which they can detect heat (infrared), contrast and movements and since most warm things that move are alive a good way to detect your meal. However it does not explain why they would pick me over other potential meals. The second tool mosquitoes have to detect prey is their sense of smell. Researchers recently (Tan Lu et al., 2007) have mapped the long range smelling detector (maxillary palp) on the mosquito in detail and found out that it is tuned to CO2, octenol and general olfactory reception. This makes it an interesting case because with purely vision no distinction can be made between meals while with smell (aside from CO2) there are differences between people. This combined with the assumption (no study found) that some people get bit more often than others makes room for finding an effective counter measure for these predators by for example blocking these smell receptors or overstimulating them. I hope they find an effective measure soon since most of the current solutions, aside from smacking them with a paper, on the market work very poorly. With 650 million people / year infected by malaria each year its a pretty big market!

Subject links:

How Stuff Works: Mosquitoes

How Stuff Works: Mosquito Magnet

Science Daily: Fighting Malaria By Tricking Mosquito’s Sense Of Smell

Telegraph: Why some people are prone to mosquito bites

USNews.com: Do you feel like bug bait?

Research Paper: Odor Coding in the Maxillary Palp of the Malaria Vector Mosquito Anopheles gambiae

Addition 28/06/08:

Researcher found that the pheromone, which affects mate recognition and sexual behavior of fruit flies, does not directly attach to nerve cells, as was previously thought.

Afterthought:
Maybe there is a connection with my easy/frequent nosebleeds (which occur randomly for no reason) an extra cause that attracts mosquitoes

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