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posted by martyb on Sunday February 09 2020, @01:07PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the too-late-for-agent-pleakley dept.

Common wisdom is that mosquitoes use multiple methods to home in on their prey, including Carbon Dioxide in respiration and detection of body heat. Now, in a paper published in the journal Science, researchers describe the underlying temperature detection mechanism used, and interestingly it isn't a heat-seeking mechanism, but rather a cold-avoiding one.

[...] Last year, [professor of biology Paul Garrity, Ph.D.] and several colleagues published a paper in the journal Neuron that upended the conventional thinking about the temperature-sensing receptors at the tip of flies' antennas.

Traditionally, these receptors were thought to act like thermometers, taking the temperature of the surroundings to let the fly know if the environment is hot or cold. Instead, Garrity and his colleagues found that the receptors only detected whether the temperature was changing, letting the fly know if things were getting hotter or colder.

For this reason, Garrity renamed these temperature sensors the Cooling Cells and Heating Cells. They're so sensitive they can detect a few hundredths of a degree change in temperature per second.

Mosquitoes, who are close evolutionary relatives of flies, also have Cooling Cells and Heating Cells.

While it would seem to make sense to look at the insects' heating cells to understand what draws them to human warmth, Garrity's group considered an alternative —- and counterintuitive —- hypothesis. Maybe it wasn't that the insects were flying toward the heat; maybe they were flying away from the cold. This would mean the Cooling Cells would be the ones to focus on.

The specific Cooling Cells Garrity and his fellow scientists studied for their paper in Science rely on a molecular receptor called IR21a. IR stands for ionotropic receptor, a group of proteins that help neurons to transmit signals. IR21a facilitates the transmission of a signal that the temperature around the insect is falling.

Here is a YouTube video comparing the ability of mosquitoes with and without the IR21a receptor to find a human temperature surface.

According to Garrity, the IR21a receptor is activated whenever mosquitoes move toward a cooler temperature. Since humans are usually warmer than their surroundings, this means that as a mosquito is approaching a human, IR21a is silent. But if the animal should deviate from its course and start to move away from its warm-blooded prey, IR21a becomes activated, only shutting off once the insect course-corrects.

Garrity said IR21a seems to act like "an annoying alarm. It goes off whenever the female mosquito heads towards cooler climes. When they are seeking humans, they seem to be driven to do whatever it takes to turn down the sound."

Also at Ars Technica and EurekAlert.

Now let's figure out how to hit 'snooze'.

Journal References:
Mosquito heat seeking is driven by an ancestral cooling receptor [$], Science (DOI: 10 .1126/science.aay9847)
In the heat of the night [$], Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.aba4484)


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  • (Score: -1, Spam) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09 2020, @01:12PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09 2020, @01:12PM (#956013)

    HOW ABOUT ANOTHER JOKE MURRAY?

    • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09 2020, @03:41PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09 2020, @03:41PM (#956056)
  • (Score: 1, Offtopic) by jmichaelhudsondotnet on Sunday February 09 2020, @03:11PM (3 children)

    by jmichaelhudsondotnet (8122) on Sunday February 09 2020, @03:11PM (#956040) Journal

    So ice cubes deter mosquitos better than deet?

    Or better yet, DEET ICE!

    I will wait for my royalty check right here. I would be one heck of an advertising stooge if I were a stooge.

    Sadly, or happily, depending how you look, I am not. But I will still let the stooges pay me to help them do their pitiful, misery-inducing make-work.

    That said, I wonder how many other animals and insects were are repelling and driving away without realizing the counterintuitive, key insight...like, I would like to know what fascists are allergic too?

    Facts maybe? Non-televised debate? Locally owned media? Debt refusal? True human friendship? Well, we know they hate dank memes...

    https://archive.is/8iqjM [archive.is]
    https://archive.is/ZinJT [archive.is]

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09 2020, @08:23PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09 2020, @08:23PM (#956147)

      So the next time you want to avoid getting bit by mosquitos just make sure you eat a few ice cubes and take an ice cold shower before bed. Don't cover yourwelf with the blanket and keep the air conditioner on next to you at all times. As long as you keep your body temperature low enough they will leave you alone.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09 2020, @08:25PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09 2020, @08:25PM (#956148)

        Don't cover yourself *

    • (Score: 0, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09 2020, @10:19PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09 2020, @10:19PM (#956180)

      So ice cubes deter mosquitos better than deet?
      ...
      Facts maybe? Non-televised debate? Locally owned media? Debt refusal? True human friendship? Well, we know they hate dank memes...

      A dead body at room temperature is enough, not need to waste energy on freezing water. As a secondary but still significant advantage, one less source of lame memes in this world.

      BTW, DEET freezes at 240K, making deet-cubes even more wasteful than freezing water.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09 2020, @06:52PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09 2020, @06:52PM (#956126)

    you can kind of see it when they are flying towards you. they appear to bumble into your area, before they find your juicy, juicy flesh, and it always struck me as odd. now it all makes sense.

    • (Score: 1) by RandomFactor on Sunday February 09 2020, @09:31PM (1 child)

      by RandomFactor (3682) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 09 2020, @09:31PM (#956169) Journal

      Yep. They go in a bad direction, they change directions. Sounds like they aren't homing on radiated heat. They are just changing direction if they are going in a direction that gets colder.

      So if we could somehow maintain a layer of air near us that was just a degree or two cooler than the surrounding air they would wander off.

      --
      В «Правде» нет известий, в «Известиях» нет правды
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09 2020, @10:41PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09 2020, @10:41PM (#956185)

        Keeping a fan on at night, even gently, seemed very effective at preventing bites. I always thought it was because they can't fly very well but disturbing the heat convection also could be a factor. Little bastards.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09 2020, @07:28PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09 2020, @07:28PM (#956137)

    "Garrity's group considered an alternative —- and counterintuitive —- hypothesis."

    Ha, ha, ha, counter intuitive, is it?

    Nay, it's a programmed in survival mechanism, most living things have it baked into their dna or whatever.

    The blood sucking part is a canard.

    Cold? Go find Heat, that simple, nothing novel about survival behavior.

    Good find though.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09 2020, @08:12PM (5 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09 2020, @08:12PM (#956142)

    Heat seeking, cold avoiding. Same thing, no?

    • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Sunday February 09 2020, @10:38PM (4 children)

      by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 09 2020, @10:38PM (#956183) Journal

      Heat seeking, cold avoiding. Same thing, no?

      Nope. Heat seeking alone will make warmer places more attractive, and yet no mosquitoes to be found in iron foundries (grin)

      --
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09 2020, @10:48PM (3 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09 2020, @10:48PM (#956186)

        So they have a preferred temperature range. Calling it 'heat seeking' vs 'cold avoiding' seems like semantics to me.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09 2020, @10:58PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09 2020, @10:58PM (#956191)

          Calling it 'heat seeking' vs 'cold avoiding' seems like semantics to me.

          I see. Blinded by semantics while missing the meaning.

        • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Monday February 10 2020, @08:08AM (1 child)

          by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 10 2020, @08:08AM (#956282) Homepage Journal

          There is always the possibility that the researchers are dumb as rocks, and spewing nonsense.

          Let's assume though, that they know what they are talking about. The bug has two types of sensors. The first sensor guides them toward heat, the second sensor screams at them if thermal energy is decreasing. So, no, not just semantics. The first sensor seems to cause good-feelz, and the second sensor causes bad-feelz. Apparently, the bad-feelz take precedence over good-feelz. If all of that is true, and accurate, then cold avoidance reinforces heat seeking, but it is a different stimulus.

          Which leaves a question to be answered: Why does the bug leave you after it has dined? Does the full belly turn off the cold avoidance system? Does that system only work when the female mosquito needs a blood fest to lay her eggs? Something is going on that these guys aren't explaining.

          --
          Make an actual interesting, germane, and relevant point and you may get away with Flamebait - 'Zumi
          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 10 2020, @11:48PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 10 2020, @11:48PM (#956605)

            So their preferred temperature range changes after they eat.

  • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Sunday February 09 2020, @10:35PM (8 children)

    by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 09 2020, @10:35PM (#956182) Journal

    I wouldn't discount the mosquitoes "heat sensors" as yet.

    If a warmer object is in the same room, will mosquitoes leave me alone and pick the warmer object?
    If true, how come the entire humanity didn't notice this over its entire history, small candles were not that unusual [pinimg.com]

    --
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
    • (Score: 2) by Joe Desertrat on Sunday February 09 2020, @11:11PM (7 children)

      by Joe Desertrat (2454) on Sunday February 09 2020, @11:11PM (#956195)

      Mosquitoes seem split between seeking food and avoiding danger. Cold, while not an attack, slows their metabolism making them less capable of both detecting prey and avoiding predators. To reinforce this, prey is more likely to be found in warmer areas, for much the same reason.
      I believe the concentration of carbon dioxide around vertebrates is what helps them zero in, not the warmth. That is how they manage to find and attack prey such as reptiles, even though they are cold blooded.
      I've noticed that a mosquito moving in on an "attack" will engage in immediate escape maneuvers if you swipe at them and miss. Depending on the direction of the swipe and the makeup of the surrounding area, they can make their escape away in any direction, usually towards a dark area. I've found that a better weapon than swiping (though it is satisfying to nab one of the devils in mid air) is to shoot them down with a spray of some sort. I don't mean insecticide, while that obviously works you don't necessarily want to be spraying it all over the place. Any household cleaning spray will "shoot them down", and if you follow the fall you can be sure of dispatching them where they land.

      • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Sunday February 09 2020, @11:50PM (2 children)

        by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 09 2020, @11:50PM (#956208) Journal

        Any household cleaning spray will "shoot them down", and if you follow the fall you can be sure of dispatching them where they land.

        Laser zapping mosquitoes in slomo [youtube.com] - more humane and geekish.

        --
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
        • (Score: 1) by Guppy on Monday February 10 2020, @07:02PM (1 child)

          by Guppy (3213) on Monday February 10 2020, @07:02PM (#956459)

          Laser zapping mosquitoes in slomo [youtube.com] - more humane and geekish.

          Eh, it's an Intellectual Ventures product, and they're well-known as a patent troll that can't actually produce anything.
          Don't hold your breath waiting, that video you posted is already almost a decade old.

          • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Monday February 10 2020, @10:14PM

            by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 10 2020, @10:14PM (#956564) Journal

            Eh, it's an Intellectual Ventures product, and they're well-known as a patent troll that can't actually produce anything.

            Doesn't mean the idea of laser zapping mosquitoes is not cool, no matter the source of it.

            Don't hold your breath waiting

            Install their "mosquito fence" in my bedroom? That would be idiotic, the "for bedroom" context offers lots of opportunities for simplification of the product - no need for weather proofing, insect species identification (it's a flying insect? Zap it, I don't keep any as pets), the power socket is readily available, etc.

            --
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09 2020, @11:56PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09 2020, @11:56PM (#956210)

        > Any household cleaning spray

        Have you tried water in a re-purposed spray bottle? I hate to spray cleaning products all around (although I agree they could be less annoying than insecticides).

      • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Monday February 10 2020, @04:17PM (1 child)

        by Freeman (732) on Monday February 10 2020, @04:17PM (#956376) Journal

        I assume the "Bug Assault" salt guns would work on mosquitoes too. Though, It might seem a bit odd to be carrying around a black and yellow toy gun everywhere you go.

        --
        Forced Microsoft Account for Windows Login → Switch to Linux.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 10 2020, @04:31PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 10 2020, @04:31PM (#956382)

          Those things have a lot of bad reviews for quality issues.

          What I want is a mosquito zapping laser tower. 360 degree protection for at least a 15 foot radius.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 10 2020, @04:17PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 10 2020, @04:17PM (#956375)

    When I drive, I avoid not avoiding the other cars.

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