Tadpole's Outdoor Blog

September 23, 2011

Squirrel hunters will appreciate no skeeters in the woods.

Filed under: Fishing & Hunting — Freddie Keel @ 6:16 am


A science blog with Eric Berger
Houston Chronicle

Scientists develop a sperm-less mosquito: Females lay eggs that don’t hatch

In April I reported on a discovery by scientists, including Andrea Crisanti, of a method to introduce genetic changes in mosquitoes — which are not necessarily beneficial to the survival of the bug — that quickly propagate throughout a species.

Now Crisanti is back with a new advance in the battle against mosquitoes in general, and malaria in specific: Sperm-less mosquitoes.

In particular, the researchers “silenced” a gene that’s required for the production of sperm in Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes, one of the most important carriers of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.

They report their work today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (see abstract).

Anopheles gambiae: One of the most efficient malaria vectors known. (Wikipedia)

After silencing the sperm-making genes the scientists introduced their male mosquitoes to females, and they went at it. What happened? Females still laid eggs, but the unfertilized eggs did not hatch.

There was also evidence that the females, once they laid their eggs, did not mate again.

These were laboratory experiments, so it’s not clear what will happen in the wild. So this remains a promising alternative to pesticides, rather than a solution at this point.

But because there’s a high energy costs to male mosquitoes for the production of sperm, there’s reason to believe the sperm-less kind might actually be more fit in the wild and therefore spread their seed-less seed further.

So it’s time to ask again, as we may soon have the biological tools to do so: Should we kill all of the mosquitoes?


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