Scientists have, for the first time, chemically identified compounds released by mosquitoes' natural aquatic predators that function as warning signals for egg laying mosquitoes. This discovery may prove a breakthrough that could assist in the fight against mosquitoes.
Carried out at the University of Haifa in collaboration with researchers from other universities, the study claimed that introducing these natural chemicals into mosquito breeding sites will cause the mosquitoes to sense risk of predation to their progeny and avoid laying their eggs there.
Knowing the chemical identity of these compounds would greatly facilitate scientists' understanding of predator-prey relationships and the importance of these compounds in affecting ecological communities.
They may also provide an eco-friendly alternative for mosquito control.
The new breakthrough research, funded by the Israel Science Foundation, was developed in Prof. Leon Blaustein's laboratory at the University of Haifa.
Previous research from Blaustein's lab demonstrated that the mosquito, Culiseta longiareolata, chemically detects a voracious predator of its progeny in the water, the backswimmer, Notonecta maculata, and avoids laying eggs where the predator is detected.
However, until recently, the chemical identity of these predator-released compounds was not known.
By screening and comparing the chemicals released by N. maculata with those released by Anax imperator, another aquatic predator that does not elicit a chemical response by the mosquito, they were able to narrow down the potential chemicals that elicited the mosquito's behavioral response.
Blaustein's group then conducted outdoor experiments on potential chemicals and determined that two of these N. maculata-released chemicals, n-tricosane and n-heneicosane, repelled these mosquitoes from laying eggs.
The two compounds together had an additive effect.
Applying such synthetic compounds to mosquito breeding sites would not only result in much fewer mosquitoes in the immediate area but probably reduce mosquito populations overall.
The findings will be published in the prestigious journal Ecology Letters.