How to tell whether a mosquito is male or female (without getting bitten)
The mosquito on the left is a male Aedes aegypti mosquito. The mosquito on the right is his female counterpart. Viva la difference— and the difference is in the antennae.
The mosquito on the left is a male Aedes aegypti mosquito. The mosquito on the right is his female counterpart.
Viva la difference — and the difference is in the antennae. Mosquito antennae are lined with fine hairs called antennal flagellum, and the density of the flagellum differs from one sex to another. Males have many, many more antennal flagellum, turning their antennae into a pair of bushy bottle brushes. Megan Fritz, a post-doctoral student in the North Carolina State University department of entomology described them to me as the mosquitoes' mustache. Even though mosquitoes are tiny, the males' flagellum are prominently noticeable to the naked eye. Fritz can tell which mosquitoes are boys and which are girls, on sight.
Female Aedes aegypti do the biting. But they don't have nearly as many flagellum and, thus, their hearing is not nearly as finely tuned as that of male mosquitoes. That's because the men and the women are looking for different things.
Female mosquitoes are on the lookout for victims to bite. Like the males, they eat sugar. At the NCSU mosquito breeding facility, Megan Fritz feeds both males and females on sugar water. But, without regular meals of blood, the females lose their ability to reproduce. No blood, no baby mosquitoes. Unsurprisingly, then, female mosquitoes have special sensory abilities that allow them to find and procure blood.
Males, on the hand, are primarily interested in finding females. And that's where those thick flagellum come in. Turns out, the flagellum are integral to the mosquitoes' ability to hear. Specifically, all those flagellum help male mosquitoes hear the very, very, very quiet sounds of female mosquitoes buzzing around. Sound waves make the flagellum move. That movement is carried through the antenna to a special organ that helps the mosquitoes actually make sense of the motion. Called Johnston's organ, it can tell males how fast the wings of nearby mosquitoes are beating and it can help them distinguish male from female, and species from species.
• The Mosquito Reference Manual
• A research paper that explains how mosquitoes hear and how the antennal flagellum work
• Another paper that describes several ways that male mosquitoes use their antennae to explore their world
Researchers at UC Riverside and Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada have published a paper describing their ongoing success in setting a “transparent nanocrystalline yttria-stabilized-zirconia” into patients’ skulls, which reveal the patients’ brains so that the patients’ brains can be zapped with therapeutic lasers.
One million miles from Earth, hanging in space between Earth’s gravitational pull and the sun’s, is the DSCOVR satellite and NASA’s incredible EPIC camera. Every two hours, EPIC takes a photo of Earth “to monitor ozone and aerosol levels in Earth’s atmosphere, cloud height, vegetation properties and the ultraviolet reflectivity of Earth.” The above video […]
In Botswana, conservation scientists from the University of New South Wales are painting eyes on the rear ends of cattle in an effort to deter lions from eating them. As the lions’ protected habitats shrink, they move closer to human settlements. In Botswana, the lions attack the livestock that the subsistence farmers count on. That […]
It’s no secret that technology is changing the way we all work—but it’s also transforming the way we play. The games of today look nothing like those of 10 or even 20 years ago: these days it’s all about mobile and 3D. And now you can learn to design 3D mobile games with the Intro to Unity 3D Game […]
Earbuds are fine for casual listening while you work out or run errands. But when you really want to experience music as it was intended, nothing beats a serious set of noise-canceling, soundscape-enhancing headphones.The REMXD On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones offer high-quality sound with complete wireless connectivity — and at just $35.99, this rechargeable set won’t even cut into […]
From self-driving cars to financial software to the recommendations you get on Amazon and Netflix, machine learning is at the core of modern technology—and its implications for future technology are staggering.And now, you can dive into the field of machine learning yourself with The Complete Machine Learning Bundle. This package of 10 courses includes 406 […]