Friday, June 5, 2009

Evolving Mosquitos in the Galapagos?

-C . Paula de los Angeles

A recent paper published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists by the University of Leeds, the Zoological Society of London and Galapágos National Park reveals the untold story of the insects of the Galapagos, much less well-known than the archipelago's finches.

Aedes taeniorhynchus, a black salt marsh mosquito, is the only mosquito found throughout the Galapagos. The existence of this species calls into question the possible impact of mosquito-borne diseases. Genetic analyses revealed that the mosquitos were not recent immigrants to the arrival, but arrived around 200,000 years ago. Like the finches, these mosquitos have evolved the point where they can almost be considered a different species than the mainland variety.

Some interesting adaptations of the mosquito is that they can feed on lizards, tortoises, and other reptiles (while the mainland variety feeds mainly on mammals).

Researchers are concerned about the spread of pathogens such as West Nile virus and suggest pre-treating any form of transportation that comes to the Galapagos with pesticides.

In thinking about Darwin's explorations of the Galapagos, I wonder about the somewhat random selection of species chosen to study. Why finches? Why snails? What about the evolution and study of less obvious animals? Would our understanding of evolution be any different or less clear if we didn't have the clear prototype of the Galapagos finches? As always, I'm curios about the neglect of marine animals..

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