In this video of mosquitoes on the verge of mating, scientists reveal something that laypeople might already have known. Even in the act of love, mosquitoes are really annoying.
Though scientists have known for a long time that the mosquito whine is a mating call, a group of Cornell researchers has revealed that there's more to the blood-sucking bugs' love songs than previously thought. They aren't just whining at each other - they are also engaging in a pretty sophisticated call-and-response ritual that involves changing the timing of their wingbeats.
The two songs, which you can hear clearly in this slomo video, become a kind of duet. The duet is generated just before the couple starts mating, and researchers say it "settles at around 1,200 hertz — roughly an octave and a half above concert A, the pitch to which instruments are tuned."
According to a summary of the research, published today in Science:
To study mosquito mating calls, the researchers tethered mosquitoes and flew them past each other while recording the flight tones with a special microphone. Co-first author Benjamin Arthur, a postdoctoral researcher in Hoy's laboratory, placed electrodes in the mosquitoes' auditory organ in their antennae during playback to measure physiological responses of the mosquitoes to the sounds of potential mates.
So making a mosquito porn movie is a little bit more technically complex than making one with humans. But don't worry - the researchers aren't just doing this as a mosquito marital aid. It's actually part of a plot to destroy the mosquito population.
Says researcher Lauren Cator:
By studying these flight tone signals, we may be able to determine what kind of information males and females consider important when choosing a mate. This will allow us to release 'sexy' transgenic or sterilized males that will be able to successfully compete with wild populations.
Basically, she's saying they want to breed the sexiest mosquitoes imaginable and then make them sterile, so that wild mosquitoes will hump them without breeding more of those foxy, blood-drinking whiners.
In other words: Mosquito eugenics FTW.
SOURCE: Science Magazine