Mosquitos use their smell, vision and heat sensors to detect and attack victims.
Based on a recent study published in the journal Current Biology, mosquitos snuffle, too, but only to track their victims down. The experiment that author Floris van Breugel from the Californian Institute of Technology has performed clearly indicates how these insects smell the CO2 emissions of their potential hosts and then, adapt their vision to identify the genus of the respective being.
If you’re like most human beings, your first reaction to mosquitos is to avoid them or even to kill them, but researchers Floris van Breugel thought running away from problems is not a solution. For that matter, he has elaborated an experiment to better understand how mosquitos track their victims.
The research implied the use of several wind tubes, which have been purposefully designed to allow the release of human-like CO2 emissions at given intervals. The plume of CO2 gas was released through a small spot at the bottom of the tubes, while scientists carefully noticed their buzzing respondents’ behavior.
Mosquitos showed no particular change in their conduct when first placed in the wind tubes. As soon as researchers released the first plume of carbon dioxide, they immediately changed their flight coordinates and started heading towards the spot in the ground. This test has been repeated on many other occasions and researchers were, indeed, able to conclude that mosquitos use their smell to sniff potential hosts.
The experiment has further revealed that the carbon dioxide has the ability to completely change mosquitos’ behavior. Once they become aware of the presence of a host, they pierce their eyes so they could determine whether the victim is a human being or an animal.
The third sense that these insects rely on before sucking their hosts’ blood is body heat. It is based on this information that mosquitos make estimates in relation to the distance between them and their victims.
Carbon dioxide emissions can be tracked down by mosquitos from a distance of 50m, while a distance of approximately 5-15m is required for them to view their victims. Body heat can only be sensed from 1m, but even so, mosquitos’ radars are accurate enough considering how developed their senses are.
Floris van Breugel and his colleagues think similar experiments should be conducted in the future because humans need to first understand the behavior of these insects before elaborating defense plans. By describing the smelling sense of mosquitos, scientists could discover scents that help repel these insects.
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