Few animals specialize as thoroughly as the mosquitoes that carry diseases like Zika, malaria and dengue fever.
In fact, of the more than 3,000 mosquito species in the world, most are opportunistic, said Carolyn “Lindy” McBride, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute. They may be mammal biters, or bird biters, with a mild preference for various species within those categories, but most mosquitoes are neither totally indiscriminate nor species-specific. But she is most interested in the mosquitoes that scientists call “disease vectors” — carriers of diseases that plague humans — some of which have evolved to bite humans almost exclusively. (more…)