UF scientists say global warming could spread mosquito

July 12, 2001

VERO BEACH, Fla. --- Vanishing coastlines may not be the only peril in a global-warming world; disease-carrying Asian tiger mosquitoes may find the hotter temperatures to their liking and may show up in places they've never been seen before, according to new research published this week.

"Our research shows that, like many mosquitoes, this species breeds faster as the temperature gets higher," said Barry Alto, a University of Florida entomology doctoral student and co-author of the study appearing today in the Journal of Medical Entomology. "If global warming trends continue, the Asian tiger mosquito may become common in places it's not found today.

What's more, he said, the Asian tiger mosquito may be just the beginning.

"Some research indicates that global climate change may alter the current distributions of other mosquito species," Alto said.

Native to East Asia, the Asian tiger mosquito has spread widely in the last two decades, transported in shipments of used automobile tires containing its eggs, Alto said. Warmer regions of North and South America, Europe and Africa now harbor the species, known scientifically as Aedes albopictus. It was first reported in the United States in 1985 and has reached at least 25 states, mainly in the East and South.

"This mosquito spread quickly in the South," Alto said, "whereas in the Midwest, it's less common although it arrived in the mid-'80s."

The Asian tiger mosquito is named for its appearance, black with silver-white bands. Though small, the species is an aggressive biter, attacking humans, livestock and wildlife, mainly during daylight hours.

Phil Lounibos, a UF entomology professor who studies the Asian tiger mosquito, said it draws interest from researchers worldwide.

"So many places are affected by this insect," Lounibos said. "It would be just a nuisance except that it can transmit serious viral diseases." In the tropics, the mosquito carries dengue fever, which infects tens of millions but is usually not fatal. A severe, hemorrhagic form of the disease infects hundreds of thousands each year and kills about 5 percent of those infected.

"Dengue is epidemic in northern and southeastern Brazil right now," Lounibos said. "We're trying to stop it. Competition between the Asian tiger mosquito and the yellow fever mosquito, another invasive species that transmits dengue, may play a role in the crisis."

Alto said the study compares reproduction of Asian tiger mosquitoes housed at 79, 75 or 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Mosquitoes kept at 79 degrees reproduced fastest, while those at 72 degrees reproduced slowest.

"The difference between the low and high temperatures -- 7 degrees -- matches some estimates of how much global temperatures will increase in the next 100 years," he said.

The study shows that higher temperatures, when considered alone, would probably allow the mosquito to spread farther north and possibly survive year-round in areas where winter freezes now kill it off, he said.

Steven Juliano, an Illinois State University biological sciences professor and co-author of the study, said global warming also is predicted to affect rainfall and humidity, so the study does not make definite predictions about the mosquito's possible spread. Still, he said, it provides some valuable insight.

"Insect population dynamics are affected by many variables," Juliano said. "But this study helps us highlight what we need to know to plan for the future."

Juliano and Alto are conducting follow-up research at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach as part of a project concerning invasion biology of the Asian tiger mosquito. Juliano said the project is funded by the National Institutes of Health and involves researchers from UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Illinois State University, Yale University and Brazil's ministry of health.
Photo Available at IFAS News Web Site http://news.ifas.ufl.edu Sources: Barry Alto at 561-778-7200, ext. 148, bwalto@ufl.edu, Phil Lounibos at 561-778-7200, ext. 146, lpl@gnv.ifas.ufl.edu, Steven Juliano at 561-778-7200, ext. 150, sajulia@mail.bio.ilstu.edu.

University of Florida

Related Global Warming Articles from Brightsurf:

The ocean has become more stratified with global warming
A new study found that the global ocean has become more layered and resistant to vertical mixing as warming from the surface creates increasing stratification.

Containing methane and its contribution to global warming
Methane is a gas that deserves more attention in the climate debate as it contributes to almost half of human-made global warming in the short-term.

Global warming and extinction risk
How can fossils predict the consequences of climate change? A German research team from Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), the Museum of Natural History Berlin and the Alfred Wegener Institute compared data from fossil and marine organisms living today to predict which groups of animals are most at risk from climate change.

Intensified global monsoon extreme rainfall signals global warming -- A study
A new study reveals significant associations between global warming and the observed intensification of extreme rainfall over the global monsoon region and its several subregions, including the southern part of South Africa, India, North America and the eastern part of the South America.

Global warming's impact on undernourishment
Global warming may increase undernutrition through the effects of heat exposure on people, according to a new study published this week in PLOS Medicine by Yuming Guo of Monash University, Australia, and colleagues.

Global warming will accelerate water cycle over global land monsoon regions
A new study provides a broader understanding on the redistribution of freshwater resources across the globe induced by future changes in the monsoon system.

Comparison of global climatologies confirms warming of the global ocean
A report describes the main features of the recently published World Ocean Experiment-Argo Global Hydrographic Climatology.

Six feet under, a new approach to global warming
A Washington State University researcher has found that one-fourth of the carbon held by soil is bound to minerals as far as six feet below the surface.

Can we limit global warming to 1.5 °C?
Efforts to combat climate change tend to focus on supply-side changes, such as shifting to renewable or cleaner energy.

Global warming: Worrying lessons from the past
56 million years ago, the Earth experienced an exceptional episode of global warming.

Read More: Global Warming News and Global Warming Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.