The surprisingly substantial importance of mosquitoes

Mosquitoes featured
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There’s no way the buzz of mosquitoes can come even close to being the music to any pair of ears despite the fact that different individuals do perceive sounds differently. There is something universally annoying about the persistence exhibited by these tiny creatures, flapping their wings an unbelievable 300- 600 times per second, meandering blood thirstily over us, feeding the ears consistent buzzes so irritating that invokes the displeased in us every often they manage to bother us. It however isn’t just the peace of mind and the pleasure of a sound sleep that mosquitoes come in the way of. These tiny pesky creatures of devilish intent do also well to threaten our health, carriers as they are of such diseases as malaria and dengue and chikungunya and encephalitis et al that make them also among the deadliest of insects in the world. And while it only is the females of the species that suck out our blood because they need the protein to foster their young ones and also therefore spread diseases to us, there perhaps would rule an unanimous decision to try and eliminate just about every mosquito from the face of the earth.

Whether that is an option that can really be exercised by choice might be a different matter altogether but for every layman whose peace has come to be infested by these minuscule agents of exasperating dominions, the very probability of dwelling in a mosquito free world would perhaps come across as no less a relief than what the Germans under Adolf Hitler had experienced after the dismantling of the Nazi rule. The allegory might be far fetched and our reference quite an arbitrary derivation on it but the point we sought to made does not cease to hold ground- mosquitoes are a nuisance and we would be more than better off without them.

This however is a perspective that builds on the notion of us human beings as the only exclusive lives on earth. In the greater world view though, not only it is unessential to devise ways and means to wipe out all mosquitoes from the planet, it also is absolutely undesirable. For one because not all species of mosquitoes bite humans, just some 200 of them females do out of an almost 3500, fun fact- they in fact feed on the nectar of plants! And second, mosquitoes perpetuate also a host of other lives on earth in being an integral part of the world ecosystem. Fun fact 2: these pests of pesky disrepute can in fact also be perpetuating human lives in some way or the other! Even in being harbouring of more nuisance than value, mosquitoes do not warrant all of our malice, not at least when they aren’t doing so annoyingly good as blood suckers.

The importance that mosquitoes hold in the greater sphere of existence stems from the very basis that justifies all life on earth. For all living beings, no matter how big or tiny, have a purpose to serve here in the planet that sustains them. In this spectrum of realising the needs of the planet, mosquitoes too have a surprisingly profound role to play. Serving an array of purposes in a wide many different ecosystems are these creatures that otherwise cause mass nuisance with their bite and their continuous buzzing trail. In serving as food for many species, helping filter detritus for plant life to thrive, pollinating flowers, and even affecting the herding paths of caribou in the tundra, with also a potential to augment medical treatments for mankind, mosquitoes are nowhere near to being the most useless of beings to inhabit earth.

Almost every species on earth, except the higher ones, is the source of some food for some individual else in the ecosystem. And mosquitoes, in their role at the bottom of the food web, are one rather distinctive species the world depends a lot on. Not to say however that the ecosystem would collapse if ever we are able to wipe out their entire lot since some other species would likely adapt to performing a similar range of functions but till the time mosquitoes persist they will also have a certain importance persisting along with them.

The first serving of the greater food purpose for other species by mosquitoes begin even in their stage of being the larvae. As aquatic insects that therefore have quite an important role to play in their thriving ecosystem, mosquito larvae come across as rather wholesome source of nutrition for fish and other aquatic creatures. By straining such tiny organic particles as unicellular algae from the water and converting them to the tissues of their own bodies that pack up a nutrition punch for all that feeds on them, mosquitoes give it their all to emerge as a vital component of the ecosystem in water. In the process of their own sustenance as well that sees the larvae eat up the detritus in the water, they also helps to keep the aquatic ecosystem clean. Even as full grown adults, mosquitoes present themselves as nutrition packed food sources for birds, bats and other inspects like spiders, thereby asserting themselves as equally significant a component of terrestrial ecosystems.

Not just the animal community however, mosquitoes also are as necessary for plant life sustaining in aquatic ecosystems. As dweller on waste products of dead insects and the like, mosquitoes as a species, play a vital role in making nitrogen available for plants, that which is so essential element for the greenery to thrive under water. In thereby augmenting plant life, these pests of seeming insignificance also allow for the continuation of life in an entire ecosystem. This ecological importance of mosquitoes extend also to the explorations of an ecosystem as extreme as what defines life in the Arctic region. As one of the factors affecting the migratory patterns of the caribou, mosquitoes can be a key element of maintaining balance or alternatively creating disruption in the Arctic ecosystem as well.

The role of mosquitoes in sustaining plants however is not just limited to their capacities that render them so elementary an existence on the food web. Mosquitoes act also as pollinators for plants, this time in such capacity that draws from their need to feed on nectar. Just like others agents of pollination that include bees and butterflies, mosquitoes transfer pollen from flower to flower as they buzz about from one to the other to retrieve the nectar necessary for their own survival. In thereby perpetuating plant life through more ways than one, mosquitoes are important for the world also in multiple ways. Also important here to note is that mosquitoes help also with sourcing another sugary plant liquid known as honeydew that which is in fact a waste product but attributes to the pests a significance that works well for them over and above their status as pollinators.

Mosquito-on-Flower
Source: The National Wildlife Federation Blog

In the myriad roles they play particularly as components of the food chain, mosquitoes are credited also for fostering a greater diversity of many species. Beyond the substantial impact they assert on plant and animal life, mosquitoes also have surprising effects for human medicine, despite their infamous reputation to the contrary. Even in being the deadliest of all pests that which deliver near fatal doses of itching bites, the mosquito saliva that which creates all that itchiness in the first place holds potential also to stave off other such equally fatal diseases! Mosquito saliva is a rather simple composition of some 20 dominant proteins which when injected into the human body can possibly bolster our immune system. In development of anticlotting drugs, such as clotting inhibitors and capillary dilators, the saliva constituents of mosquitoes can come handy while also being explored is the scope of the saliva as opening avenues for treatment of cardiovascular diseases in humans.

In addition, mosquito saliva might often possess anesthetic properties that explains why you do not always feel the bite and that which therefore covers ground in medical science as possibly synthesising some form of anesthesia out of it. No less exemplary is the tentative adaptability of the structure of the proboscis of mosquitoes through which they suck blood to develop prototype products such as less-painful hypodermic needles as well as devising strategies to make needle insertion easier, and creating insertion guides to better place tiny electrodes into the brain.

What follows from such an extensive exploration of the many functions that mosquitoes perform are such facts that overrule the very basis on which we deride the existence of them. They might be a particularly evocative source of nuisance for us humans but this perhaps only puts into perspective the many ways in which the human race is also no less a nuisance for other creatures on earth. Perhaps the importance of mosquitoes can go also as far as to remind us that size only matters as long as you are incapable of boasting some substance. In reiterations of the scientific as well as the evocative, the latter being only a drawing of our logical human inferences, mosquitoes have been doing us a greater good since forever.


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