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Snails & Mosquitoes

December 18, 2013

In Florida, invasive, disease-carrying tiger mosquitoes are breeding in the shells of an invasive snail.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Invaders exploiting invaders. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Snail-mosquito

Mosquito larvae in a snail shell. (Nathan Burkett)

In Florida, Asian tiger mosquitoes are getting a leg up from an invasive South American apple snail. This according to entomologist Nathan Burkett, of both the University of Florida and the University of South Florida. He’s found the tiger mosquitoes breeding in the empty shells of the invasive snails. What’s more, they’re doing it in habitats very unlike their usual haunts in their native Asia.

NATHAN BURKETT (University of Florida, University of South Florida):

One of the remarkable things from the aspect of the biology of this mosquito is this is a peri-urban mosquito. It is accustomed to living and breeding in close association with human beings. And some of those locations that I surveyed, I had to get to by kayak.

HIRSHON:
These mosquitoes seem drawn exclusively to the apple snail shells, which native mosquitoes in the same area ignore. It may be the first known case of two species from different parts of the world developing such a relationship in a third location.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

In Florida, invasive tiger mosquitoes lay their eggs inside the shells of another invasive species, the apple snail. (James Gathany/CDC)

In Florida, invasive tiger mosquitoes lay their eggs inside the shells of another invasive species, the apple snail. (James Gathany/CDC)