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Curr Biol. 2012 Jan 10;22(1):40-5. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.11.029. Epub 2011 Dec 15.

Mosquitoes cool down during blood feeding to avoid overheating.

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Institut de Recherche sur la Biologie de l'Insecte, UMR CNRS 6035, Université François Rabelais, 37200 Tours, France.


Temperature is one of the most important factors affecting the life of insects [1]. For instance, high temperatures can have deleterious effects on insects' physiology. Therefore, many of them have developed various strategies to avoid the risk of thermal stress [2]. They can seek a fresher environment or adjust their water loss, but hematophagous insects, such as mosquitoes, must confront the issue of thermal stress at each feeding event on a warm-blooded host [3]. To better understand to what extent mosquitoes are exposed to thermal stress while feeding, we conducted a real-time infrared thermographic analysis of mosquitoes' body temperature during feeding on both warm blood and sugar solution. First, our results highlighted differences in temperature between the body parts of the mosquito (i.e., heterothermy) during blood intake, but not during sugar meals. We also found that anopheline mosquitoes can decrease their body temperature during blood feeding thanks to evaporative cooling of fluid droplets, which are excreted and maintained at the end of the abdomen. This mechanism protects the insect itself, probably as well as the sheltered microorganisms, both symbionts and parasites, from thermal stress. These findings constitute the first evidence of thermoregulation among hematophagous insects and explain the paradox of fresh blood excretion during feeding.

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