Innate behaviors are critical for survival and reproduction in animals. It’s therefore no surprise that behaviors are some of the first traits to evolve as animals adapt to new environments. The mosquito Aedes aegypti, for example, has recently invaded the ‘human’ niche and evolved a robust preference for biting humans over non-human animals — transforming it into the primary global vector of human arboviral disease. I will discuss our recent work trying to understand both the ultimate ecological drivers of this behavioral shift as well as its proximate neural mechanisms. Where, when, and why did Aedes aegypti evolve to specialize in biting humans? And how does it use its exquisite sense of smell to distinguish us from animals?
Host: Yun Ding