Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Mosquito evolution spells trouble for Galapagos wildlife

The Galapagos giant tortoise and other iconic wildlife are facing a new threat from disease, as some of the islands' mosquitoes develop a taste for reptile blood.

Scientists from the University of Leeds, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Galapagos National Park have discovered that while its mainland ancestors prefer the blood of mammals and the occasional bird, the Galapagos form of the black salt marsh mosquito (Aedes taeniorhynchus) has shifted its behaviour to feed mainly on reptiles – primarily Galapagos giant tortoises and marine iguanas.

The findings raise fears that these changes could devastate the islands' unique native wildlife if a new mosquito-borne disease is introduced - a scenario which is increasingly likely with the continuing rise in tourism.

Using genetic techniques, the researchers showed that the mosquito colonised the Galapagos around 200,000 years ago and was not introduced by humans as previously thought, giving them time to adapt to conditions in Galapagos. They have also found that unlike the mainland populations that normally live in mangroves and salt marshes along the coast, the Galapagos form of the mosquito can also breed up to 20 km inland and at altitudes of up to 700 metres. The research team believe the shift in feeding behaviour is an adaptation to life in Galapagos, since the islands had few mammal species prior to the arrival of Man some 500 years ago.

"When we started the work we thought that this species was also introduced by humans, so it was a surprise that it turned out to be so ancient," says Arnaud Bataille, the University of Leeds and ZSL PhD student who carried out the work. "The genetic differences of the Galapagos mosquitoes from their mainland relatives are as large as those between different species, suggesting that the mosquito in Galapagos may be in the process of evolving into a new species."

Mosquitoes are known to transmit important wildlife diseases, such as avian malaria and West Nile fever. While there is no evidence that such diseases are currently present on Galapagos, the widespread presence of the mosquito, and the fact that it feeds on a broad range of the native species, means that any new disease that arrives from the continent could spread rapidly to a wide variety to wildlife throughout the islands. Due to its long isolation, Galapagos wildlife is not likely to have much immunity to new diseases, so the effects could be devastating.

"With tourism growing so rapidly the chance of a disease-carrying mosquito hitching a ride from the mainland on a plane is also increasing, since the number of flights grows in line with visitor numbers" says Dr Andrew Cunningham, from the Zoological Society of London, one of the authors of the study. "If a new disease arrives via this route, the fear is that Galapagos' own mosquitoes would pick it up and spread it throughout the archipelago."

Rather than implementing control measures against Galapagos' own unique mosquito, the research team argues that it is imperative that measures are taken to avoid introducing new diseases to the islands.

The Ecuadorian government recently introduced a requirement for planes flying to Galapagos to have a residual insecticide treatment on the interior surfaces, and spraying in the hold and cabin on each flight. However, similar controls are yet to be implemented for ships.

Co-author Dr Simon Goodman, of Leeds' Faculty of Biological Sciences says: "It is absolutely vital that these control measures are maintained and carried out rigorously, otherwise the consequences could be very serious indeed."

The research is published online this week in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Jo Kelly | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Prototype device for measuring graphene-based electromagnetic radiation created

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Gamma ray camera offers new view on ultra-high energy electrons in plasma

28.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

When fat cells change their colour

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>