Magazine article Science News

Courting Mosquitoes Match Pitch to Signal When They're in the Mood: Carriers of Dengue Fever Virus Harmonize Their Love Songs

Magazine article Science News

Courting Mosquitoes Match Pitch to Signal When They're in the Mood: Carriers of Dengue Fever Virus Harmonize Their Love Songs

Article excerpt

Mosquitoes use their own eHarmony to find a compatible mate. New research shows that male and female mosquitoes sing harmonious duets of matching love songs by vibrating their wings. Annoying recordings of mosquito duets aren't likely to go platinum, but they give researchers some interesting new ways to think about courtship behavior in insects.

The study, published online January 8 in Science, finds that male and female Aedes aegypti--carriers of dengue and yellow fever--change the pitch of their buzzing to match each other's harmonics. The results go "way beyond the accepted dogma on hearing in mosquitoes and perhaps indeed in other organisms," comments Daniel Robert of the University of Bristol in England.

A female mosquito's come-hither buzz, produced by vibrating her wings at a certain rate, is irresistible to males. Scientists have long thought that male mosquitoes could hear just enough to locate and home in on a female, says study coauthor Ronald Hoy of Cornell University. What's more, until a 2006 study showed that Toxorhynchites brevipalpis females match notes with males, females were thought to be deaf.

The importance of female behavior in many animals has been overlooked until the past few decades, Hoy says. "The assumption was that it's all about the guys."

Understanding how mosquitoes woo one another may lead to new ways to stop their reproduction, which in turn could halt the spread of diseases they carry. …

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