Saturday, October 29, 2022

Mosquito Predation Perhaps Like You've Never Imagined or Seen

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Behavior, Biodiversity, Biological Evolution, Nature of Science

Ed Hessler

Susan Milius, Science News, reports on a research paper about hunting strategies used by three species of mosquitoes. The paper is available in two forms, non-PDF and PDF. The link is to the journal article where you can choose the PDF format but find the photographs clearer on the non-PDF form. One of the authors is a middle school teacher. 

Here I call attention to a video filmed of one of them perhaps because it is dramatic...jack-in-the-box behavior. Milius writes  "a kind of teenager mosquito can suddenly shoot its head forward from its body — stretching its neck into a skinny cord — to bite into another youngster. And that’s just one of the ways young mosquitoes kill other mosquitoes, a new study shows.

"Over decades, scientist-cinematographer Robert Hancock and colleagues have filmed attacks by these Psorophora ciliata and two other kinds of predatory mosquito larvae in unusual detail. Launching heads evolved independently in two of the kinds, he and colleagues say in their new study.

"The third predator... uses its other end. Hanging head down in water, it needs only 15 milliseconds to grip prey with a hooking sweep of the breathing tube on its predatory butt." *

Milius reviews the behavior of mosquito larvae, other findings,  Hancocks' long-term fascination with the behavior as well as his frustration of investigating it- this is where high-speed cinematography made the difference, and includes comments on why we continue to invest in mosquito control given these natural predators.

This quote Milius includes from Robert Hancock is a fitting way to close. This link to Hancock is from a student newspaper which has more information and includes a photograph of him with a student as well as separate videos of the two behaviors--head grab and butt grab. His faculty web page lists only his courses.

“'If there’s any mosquito for all the mosquito haters to actually maybe not love but like, it’s Toxorhynchites. As iridescent adults they’re vegans, feeding largely on flower nectar. For larvae, it’s all meat, mostly other mosquitoes. They’re large, and they’re gorgeous.'”

There you have the biological sciences in a nutshell. Pursued for scientific reasons and also for love of the organisms. Science is a human enterprise.

*Depending on when I post this you may be able to see this predatory behavior which Milius links. Right now, because it is from a pre-publication paper it is not linked because it is not a pre-publication paper.

No comments:

Post a Comment