Sex and species specific hearing mechanisms in mosquito flagellar ears
Authors listMatthew P Su Marta Andrés Nicholas Boyd-Gibbins Jason Somers Joerg Albert
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.