Mosquitoes not only remember the smells of individual humans, but also their swats, allowing them to avoid danger.
A rather remarkable new study claims that mosquitoes have good memories, not only have the smells of individual humans but also the specific way they swat. As a result, simply thrashing about may be enough to teach the mosquitoes to stay far away from you.
Scientists have known that mosquitoes can have a preference for certain individuals, and may switch those preferences when food supplies dwindle. This study, produced by researchers at Virginia Tech, looked into what prompted that switch, and it found out not only why mosquitoes targeted certain people but also that they had an amazing ability to anticipate swats.
Researchers determined this by exposing mosquitoes to a choice between a sleeve that either had a human odor or did not. Naturally, mosquitoes went for the one with a human scent, but appeared to choose certain odors over others. They repeated this test with mechanical vibrations thrown into the mix, and the effect on the mosquitoes was dramatic.
“Your grandmother’s insistence that you receive more bug bites because you’re ‘sweeter’ may not be that far-fetched after all, according to pioneering research from Virginia Tech scientists,” reads the statement from the university. “The study, published Jan. 25 in the journal Current Biology, shows that mosquitoes can rapidly learn and remember the smells of hosts and that dopamine is a key mediator of this process. Mosquitoes use this information and incorporate it with other stimuli to develop preferences for a particular vertebrate host species, and, within that population, certain individuals.
“However, the study also proved that even if an individual is deemed delicious-smelling, a mosquito’s preference can shift if that person’s smell is associated with an unpleasant sensation. Hosts who swat at mosquitoes or perform other defensive behaviors may be abandoned, no matter how sweet.”