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Mosquito Smell Cycle

September 20, 2013

Researchers have discovered that mosquitoes have a better sense of smell at night.



Mosquitoes’ smell cycle. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes have a better sense of smell at night. (James D. Gathany/CDC)

At nighttime, mosquitoes amp up their sense of smell by cranking out more odor-sensitive proteins. This according to biologists at the University of Notre Dame’s Eck Institute for Global Health, including Zain Syed, Giles Duffield, and Samuel Rund. Rund says they collected mosquito antennae every four hours, and compared the proteins they produced at different times.

SAMUEL RUND (University of Notre Dame):

And we found that many of them, especially the OBPs, odorant-binding proteins, had levels higher at night, when the mosquito is flying around and host-seeking, than during the day, when they’re mostly just resting.

Syed says this probably lets the mosquitoes optimize their body’s resources. Other work suggests that artificial light may not only mute their sense of smell, but make them less interested in feeding. This could lead to a light-based strategy to control mosquito-borne diseases. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.