Sex and species specific hearing mechanisms in mosquito flagellar ears


Hearing is essential for the courtship of one of the major carriers of human disease, the mosquito. Males locate females through flight-tone recognition and both sexes engage in mid-air acoustic communications, which can take place within swarms containing thousands of individuals. Despite the importance of hearing for mosquitoes, its mechanisms are still largely unclear. We here report a multilevel analysis of auditory function across three disease-transmitting mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti, Anopheles gambiae and Culex quinquefasciatus). All ears tested display transduction-dependent power gain. Quantitative analyses of mechanotransducer function reveal sex-specific and species-specific variations, including male-specific, highly sensitive transducer populations. Systemic blocks of neurotransmission result in large-amplitude oscillations only in male flagellar receivers, indicating sexually dimorphic auditory gain control mechanisms. Our findings identify modifications of auditory function as a key feature in mosquito evolution. We propose that intra-swarm communication has been a driving force behind the observed sex-specific and species-specific diversity.

Journal details

Volume 9
Issue number 1
Pages 3911
Publication date