Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Genetic changes in mosquitoes

  1. Sep 9, 2014 #1
    How much time does it take for mosquitoes to adapt to a mosquito repellant?
    I know it will vary greatly for different mosquito species but will there be any significant change in the genetic structure which can be measured if a mosquito (say culex pipens) is kept in the surroundings of very mild vapours of mosquito repellants for 2 weeks?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 9, 2014 #2
    Also, if we find some change in the genetic structure how can we know will this change make the mosquito adapt better or make it more vulnerable to mosquito repallants?
  4. Sep 9, 2014 #3
    The number of mosquitoes has to be large enough in your "environment" for them to mate each other randomly and repeatedly, which would increase the chance for the mutated genes to spread. Mutation for adaptation tends to be good for the species to grow but for others might reduce their chance to survive. My genetic teacher used to say so.
  5. Sep 11, 2014 #4
    Can you or anyone else give a more specific answer?
    Like how much mosquitoes? and for how much time they should be kept in such conditions (vapours of mosquito repellants) for the slightest change in their genetic structure?
  6. Sep 11, 2014 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    2017 Award

    You seem to misunderstand how evolution works. The use of mosquito repellant may induce the evolution of resistance to repellant, but not in the way you think. Mosquito repellant will not induce changes to the genetics of any one individual mosquito. Rather, in an entire population of mosquitos, there will be a natural genetic variation in the individual mosquitos' sensitivity to the repellant. If mosquitos who are less sensitive to the repellant are more successful in breeding (for example, because they have easier access to human blood), then they will have more offspring than those with greater sensitivity to the repellant. Over time, mosquitos harboring the genes conferring the lowered sensitivity will begin to make up the majority of the population. Thus, the timescale for the spread of resistance depends on the generation time of the mosquitos.

    Thus, in the experiment you propose, putting an individual mosquito in a jar of repellant and looking for the development of resistance in that individual, you will not see resistance evolve. Evolution occurs on populations, not individuals.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook