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Mosquito Duets

February 24, 2009

Mosquitoes tune their voices to one another during courtship.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Mosquito harmony. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

If you’re a male mosquito looking for love, you’d better tune in with your potential mate. Though males and females’ wings normally beat at different frequencies, creating different hums, they synchronize those wingbeats during courtship. Cornell University Ph. D. student Lauren Cator says the result sounds like two instruments tuning to one another.

[sfx: mosquitoes converging]
LAUREN CATOR (Cornell University):
You can actually hear those overtones sync together. If we fly pairs of males together, or pairs of females together, this behavior doesn’t occur.

HIRSHON:
Entomologist Laura Harrington adds that the females may select males based their humming ability. If so, scientists may be able to create sweet-singing males, and use them to introduce disease-proof genes into a population. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.