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Natural tool tells mosquito moms to lay their eggs someplace else

By

July 25, 2010

Mosquitoes won't lay their eggs wherever they detect a newly-identified chemical compound

Mosquitoes won't lay their eggs wherever they detect a newly-identified chemical compound

Mosquitoes could be having a tough time of it before too long. First, scientists announced an experimental new technology that utilizes gene-silencing nanoparticles to keep mosquito larvae from fully developing their protective exoskeletons. This leaves them much more vulnerable to insecticides, once they become adults. Now we have word of another study, in which researchers have identified a natural, environmentally-friendly chemical compound that causes female skitters to go elsewhere to lay their eggs.

The study was conducted at Israel’s University of Haifa, led by Prof. Leon Blaustein. His lab had already determined that mosquitoes were capable of chemically sensing a compound released by one of their larvae’s predators, the backswimmer, and would avoid laying their eggs where that compound was present. What wasn’t known until now, however, was the identity of the chemicals involved.

The team screened an array of chemicals released by the backswimmer against those released by Anax imperator, another aquatic predator that does not trigger a don’t-lay-your-eggs-here response. It was concluded that the chemicals unique to the backswimmer included those that the scientists were seeking. To narrow the field further, they then experimented with these chemicals in an outdoor, mosquito-friendly setting. Through a process of elimination, they were able to determine that a combination of the chemicals n-tricosane and n-heneicosane was the compound they were looking for.

Simply getting the mosquitoes to go elsewhere sounds like it wouldn’t have much of an effect on their total population, but Blaustein says it should. He claims that mosquitoes have about a 20 percent chance of mortality every day, so the longer they have to spend looking for a breeding ground, the higher the chance they won’t live to do so. Also, the remaining “predator-free” areas will end up being more crowded with larvae. This means that there will be more competition for resources amongst those larvae, resulting in fewer and weaker adults.

“While we see this as a potentially large breakthrough in developing another weapon against mosquitoes, the work is not over” states Blaustein. “We hope this breakthrough will spur further research to chemically determine other effective predator-released chemicals, particularly ones that are long lasting and then tested for their efficacy.”

The research is about to be published in the journal Ecology Letters.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
4 Comments

This seems like a much better idea than the gene silencing technique described [url=http://www.gizmag.com/nanoparticle-mosquito-dsrna-gene-silencing-chitin/15785/]here[/url]. Don't active exterminate them, but use this compound to mark where you don't want mosquitos to go, and let them meet their needs another way.

The fact that it's based on natural chemicals, makes it even better - minimal harm to the eco-system.

BoilingOil
25th July, 2010 @ 09:38 pm PDT

I also allows you to create a mosquito trap. Spray the town and then put out a container of water that's clean of the chemical marker. All the eggs are laid in your trap which gets fumigated and cleaned daily destroying the eggs. We will be seeing the last generation of malaria victims within the decade. One of the major barriers to African development has been malaria.

Wesley Bruce
26th July, 2010 @ 05:10 am PDT

until nature evolves the mosquito to ignore the chemical marker because the marker has become too prevalent so the mosquito that evolves to ignore the marker will breed young with that trait and within 3 generations, we're back to square one.

Ed
26th July, 2010 @ 04:33 pm PDT

Just how many birds will starve or go extinct if we eliminate mosquitoes? Don't the birds have it tough enough already? History has shown over and over that messing with the food chain doesn't work.

foghorn
27th July, 2010 @ 07:30 am PDT
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