Researchers are trying to find a way to stop the spread of malaria by understanding the faint mating sound that male mosquitoes make to mate.
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This was first reported by Joerg T Albert, professor of sensory biology and biophysics, Alex Alampouti, researcher in biophysics and Marcos Georgiades, PhD student in neurobiology and biophysics – all from University College London revealed in an article. published on the Talk.
For the ignorant, a mosquito’s mating ritual involves a male mosquito pursuing a female upon sensing her low flight pitch. If the male cannot hear the female, the chase is postponed and mating does not occur.
Researchers observed the behavior of malaria-causing Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes to better understand how males hear the flight sound of females. And that hearing is bad enough for both of you because the frequencies are too high to be heard.
However, when the male and female flight tones merge in their ear, it creates low frequency sounds called “phantom tones” in the form of distortion products. It only exists inside the mosquito’s ear and can’t even be recorded or played outside.
The only way for a male mosquito to hear this is to fly to hear a flying female and their frequencies must be in a specific range to generate the necessary distortion.
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The researchers attempted to replicate these sounds by recording mosquito flight tones in incubators fitted with highly sensitive microphones. The researchers examined 100 males and 100 females in separate incubators, individual mosquitoes as well as mixed with 50 mosquitoes of each sex.
The researchers tried to simulate a natural environment with lighting, temperature, humidity, etc. appropriate. The researchers measured the frequency of mosquito wing beats over several days and at different times of the day.
They found that only male mosquitoes changed their flight tones on a daily basis. In fact, they beat their wings 1.5 times faster than females to optimize their ability to detect single females in a swarm. The researchers also discovered that this phenomenon occurs by default and that it does not really require interaction between the two sexes.
The researchers also saw the males beat their wings faster at dusk compared to other times of the day, and their flight tone adjustment is partially influenced by their circadian clocks. Since it is an energy-intensive activity, they limit the behavior only at the time of swarming.
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The researchers say these findings open up new avenues for better mosquito control efforts, especially those involving mutant mosquitoes that cause female mosquitoes to lose their fertility.
Researchers are already working on replicating these findings in the mosquitoes’ natural habitat. They are already working on it in Tanzania.
They state that in order to create a successful program for using flight sound in mosquito population control, researchers need to further evaluate male and female flight tone distributions as well as male hearing ranges before send mutant mosquitoes.
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