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Blood feeding patterns of mosquitoes: random or structured?

Author(s): Chaves Luis | Harrington Laura | Keogh Carolyn | Nguyen Andy | Kitron Uriel

Journal: Frontiers in Zoology
ISSN 1742-9994

Volume: 7;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 3;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Abstract Background The foraging behavior of blood-sucking arthropods is the defining biological event shaping the transmission cycle of vector-borne parasites. It is also a phenomenon that pertains to the realm of community ecology, since blood-feeding patterns of vectors can occur across a community of vertebrate hosts. Although great advances in knowledge of the genetic basis for blood-feeding choices have been reported for selected vector species, little is known about the role of community composition of vertebrate hosts in determining such patterns. Methods & Results Here, we present an analysis of feeding patterns of vectors across a variety of locations, looking at foraging patterns of communities of mosquitoes, across communities of hosts primarily comprised of mammals and birds. Using null models of species co-occurrence, which do not require ancillary information about host abundance, we found that blood-feeding patterns were aggregated in studies from multiple sites, but random in studies from a single site. This combination of results supports the idea that mosquito species in a community may rely primarily on host availability in a given landscape, and that contacts with specific hosts will be influenced more by the presence/absence of hosts than by innate mosquito choices. This observation stresses the importance of blood-feeding plasticity as a key trait explaining the emergence of many zoonotic mosquito transmitted diseases. Discussion From an epidemiological perspective our observations support the idea that phenomena promoting synchronization of vectors and hosts can promote the emergence of vector-borne zoonotic diseases, as suggested by observations on the linkages between deforestation and the emergence of several human diseases.
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