Proof That Mosquitoes Are Smart

10 Feb

If you are not attempting to swat mosquitoes because you are already wearing mosquito repellent, you are doing it wrong, according to new study. If you see a mosquito always take aim because even if you did not hit it, it is more likely to stay away from you.

According to the study which is published in Current Biology, mosquitoes learn to recognize a scent after they experience near-death instances by a human swatting them. Once they are almost hit by swatting, they will avoid the scent. This is the first study that proved that mosquitoes have learning ability and they can remember.

Jeff Riffell, a neuroecologist from the University of Washington, said that the mosquitoes follow the theory of Pavlov. Pavlov is known for his expertise in conditioning dogs to salivate when given a signal. Riffell employed the same classical conditioning in order to see if the insects will be able to identify scent based on a negative stimulus.

Certain odors are what attracts mosquitoes the most thus they tend to bite humans. During the experiment, the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were lured by a human scent and for 20 minutes they were subjected to vibrations. This is the same reverberations they feel then an arm was slapped while the insect is busy having a drink.

The team of Riffells discovered that for 24 hours after being subjected to the vibration, the mosquitoes did not go near the scent associated with it. The same effect can is achieved when a person applies a repellent spray containing DEET.

Dopamine, a chemical in the brain, is responsible for learned associations. When Riffell and his team of researches tried to disable the dopamine channels of some mosquitoes and did the same experiment, they were not able to associate danger with scent and they continue biting the same source of human scent.

Riffell said that mosquitoes are flexible because they have the ability to learn. They can learn through associations if the human scent is more defensive compared to another scent. Preventing their capacity to learn will help in swatting them. This will then lessen the need to use mosquito repellent because of the disease carrying Aedes aegypti.