Monday, June 5, 2023

Mosquitoes: A Short Ecological History

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature, Wildlife, Science & Society, Health, Medicine

Ed Hessler

In an Op-Ed in the May 12, Star Tribune, St. Cloud State University ecology professor Michael Bredeson asks "Are Mosquitoes Necessary?"  The title is a giveaway that the answer is yes, if you are persuaded by the Betteridge Law of Headlines. I am.

And Brederson tells us why in his brief and well-described history of mosquitoes. He uncovers all of it, making it interesting and readable. And of course provocative. He includes the life cycle, the difference in food preferences between male and female mosquitoes (natural selection missed nothing), tells us that "of the 51 mosquito species in Minnesota, 24 take blood from humans," and their role in the spread of disease "one of the mosquitoes' most important contributions to the environment." Mosquitoes play an important part in ecosystem regulation, contributing to "the control of the number of top predators. ...Mosquitoes are experts in this category (of limiting their number)."

I had never considered their role in once protecting the Amazon rainforest "from human development." Bredeson calls attention to the impoverishment of many people who live in tropical environments and their susceptibility of mosquito-borne diseases. He cites the World Health Organization estimate that they are "responsible for about 750,000 deaths annually, 600,000 from malaria alone."

He closes with an observation. "Just like every other organism on Earth, mosquitoes are important, but for reasons we may have difficulty reckoning with."  And there is much to reckon with.

Dr. Bredeson's article may be read here.


No comments:

Post a Comment