Some like it cold: interactions between the northern frog biting mosquito, Culex territans (Walker 1856), and its amphibian hosts

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Virginia Tech

Mosquitoes are considered to be the deadliest animals in the world due to the diseases they spread. Naturally, most research centers around anthropophilic disease vector mosquitoes such as Aedes aegypti or Anopheles gambiae. However, mosquitoes can feed on, and pose a threat to, more than humans. In fact, mosquitoes can specialize in feeding on a wide variety of hosts, including ectotherms such as amphibians and reptiles. Culex territans is a mosquito that feeds primarily on amphibians and reptiles and is known to transmit parasites to its hosts. However, little else is known about this mosquito. This work dives into the biology, physiology, and vector potential of this mosquito species to provide critical insights into understanding the evolution of feeding on endotherms as well as the importance of Cx. territans to amphibian health. The first study investigates activity patterns and feeding behaviors as well as the potential cues that may attract this mosquito to its hosts. We also compare transcriptomics and anatomy of the heads of three Culex species. The second study compares three Culex species' thermopreference and host-seeking to understand the effects of the differences of geographical distribution and preferred hosts. The last three studies determine the presence of ranaviruses, giant anuran trypanosomes, and the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis at Mountain Lake Biological Station and explore the potential role of Cx. territans in transmitting these pathogens. Overall, this work provides insights into the biology of Cx. territans and the implications it may have for understanding endotherm-feeding mosquitoes and amphibian disease epidemiology.

mosquito, amphibian, Culex territans, Rana clamitans, Rana catesbeiana