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Mosquito Mapping

October 4, 2007

Scientists are mapping chemical receptors that help mosquitoes zero in on their victims.


How mosquitoes find you. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

To find their next blood meal, mosquitoes follow odors like carbon dioxide from our breath and octenol from our sweat. Now, Vanderbilt University biologist Larry Zwiebel and his colleagues have produced a detailed map of mosquito smell organs called maxillary palps. The palps are covered with tiny, identical hairs.

LARRY ZWIEBEL (Vanderbilt University):
…. All of which, more or less, corresponded to three different neurons: one of which was tuned to carbon dioxide, one of which was tuned to octenol, and one of which was tuned a little more broadly.

Mosquitoes weigh the concentrations of these chemicals to find their favorite animals to bite. To combat malaria, Zwiebel eventually hopes to find ways to jam these odor receptors, either by blocking them or by overstimulating them instead. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.