Photo Credit: ZoranD/Pixabay

Mosquitoes might be able to eavesdrop on your conversations: Binghamton University and Cornell University researchers have discovered that Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes’ antennae can detect noises at least 10 meters away.

The study, which was published in Current Biology on Feb. 7, demonstrated that mosquitoes, which were previously believed to have limited hearing capabilities, can actually hear sounds from greater distances, said a Binghamton University press release. With the study, scientists can better understand how mosquitoes use their senses to detect food sources and potential mates.

Professors from both universities collaborated to test out mosquitoes’ elevated hearing abilities. Laura Harrington and Ron Hoy from Cornell University studied how mosquito hearing impacted mating behavior, and Hoy tapped post-doc Gil Menda to record mosquito antenna nerve activity when stimulated by noises. The team found out that the mosquitoes’ nerves were sensitive to far away sounds.

Following this step, Hoy and Menda partnered with Binghamton University professor Ron Miles to place the mosquitoes in his lab, which is built to absorb sound without background noise or sound reflections. In this quiet anechoic chamber, the team tested mosquitoes’ responses to different noises, including the sounds of female mosquitoes flying for male mosquitoes. Interestingly enough, the male mosquitoes only responded to the sounds of females and took off flying when they heard these sounds.

The experimental setup for testing mosquitoes’ hearing capabilities. (Photo Credit: The Long and Short of Hearing in the Mosquito ‘Aedes aegypti’/Current Biology)

“We were able to observe the behavior of male mosquitoes to recorded sounds of either male or female mosquitoes,” Miles said in the press release. “We were also able to measure the neural response of their antennae and found they can hear sounds from surprisingly far away in the same frequencies that are important for human speech.”

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The study did not focus on if mosquitoes’ hearing capabilities could help them find human hosts, but it did unveil interesting insights on how noise is important for these insects’ mating activities.

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