Ecology: A world without mosquitoes
by Janet Fang for Nature
Synopsis and resource annotations by Max Grinnell
What would happen in a world without mosquitoes? It's an intriguing question for
those who fight the malaria-carrying insects on a daily basis. Scientists have
thought about such a scenario before, and it is a line of inquiry that is more
than just conjectural. Some believe that the complete eradication of mosquitoes
could have a wide range of effects in ecosystems, while other scientists
maintain that things would continue on much as before.
This piece from the
July 21, 2010 edition of Nature
was written by reporter Janet Fang, and she investigates
the potential long term serious consequences of eradicating mosquitoes. Fang
begins by talking about the diseases that mosquitoes help spread, most notably
malaria, which infects around 247 million people worldwide each year.
Generally, mosquitoes are considered quite pesky as well, and the piece talks
about their overall nuisance factor. So what would happen if mosquitoes
disappeared from the planet? For answers, Fang turns to a number of different
scientists, including several entomologists.
Carlos Brisola Marcondes from the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Brazil
remarks that a world without mosquitoes would be "more secure for us" and insect
ecologist Steven Juliano notes that it might be "difficult to see what the
downside would be to removal." However, scientists would be concerned about
ecosystems of fish. Hundreds of species of fish would have to change their diet
significantly, along with other animals like spiders and salamanders, should
The piece also notes that mosquitoes might still provide important "ecosystem
services," benefits that humans derive from nature. For example, without
mosquitoes many plant species would lose a group of pollinators. Of course,
there is much work to be done in this area of inquiry, and this article also
features a place where readers can submit their own commentary as well.
Found below is a list of useful resources that will illuminate and
enhance understanding of the topics found within this article.
The first link
take users to a fine page from Rutgers University that offers many details about
Moving on, the second link
leads to a case study from the University of Pittsburgh's Department of
Pathology, which provides an interesting look at the symptoms and treatment of
The third link
take interested parties to a site from Texas A & M University's Department of
Entomology. Here they can learn about insects' relationship with humans,
agriculture, and lawns.
The fourth link
to a site dedicated to ecosystems, and will help visitors understand the role
organisms play in every ecosystem.
The fifth link
users away to the very comprehensive World Biodiversity Database, which provides
taxonomic information and other materials on 200,000 taxa.
The final link
to Insects.org, which features material for educators involving various insects
and a number of detailed photographs.