What Would Happen if We Eradicated Mosquitos?
The Dangers of Mosquitos
There are over 3,000 different species of mosquitoes in the world. They live on all continents, only excluding Antarctica, and have been roaming the Earth for over 45 million years, long before the appearance of homo sapien sapiens. These resilient, nasty invertebrates are vectors of disease, some of which are extremely detrimental, and even potentially deadly to humans. Mosquito transmitted diseases account for several million deaths worldwide each year, making it one of the deadliest creatures on Earth… not to mention incredibly annoying. Historically, humans have unfortunately been pretty successful at making other species go extinct… so why don’t we just kill all the mosquitos?
The Problem with Eradication
There is a debate within scientific circles as to whether or not the disappearance of all mosquitos would be detrimental to our ecosystems. Some scientists theorize that there would not be large negative effects and that the world would actually adjust to the lack of mosquitos rather easily. On the flipside, other scientists argue the stance that certain species of mosquitos do actually play very important roles within their respective ecosystems and food chains so, if they were to spontaneously disappear, it could potentially harm their local plants, animals, and fellow insects. Those considerations aside… is it even possible?
Biting Off More Than We Can Chew
With so many species of mosquitos to compete with and mosquitos living virtually everywhere on the planet, it would be insanely difficult to track down all the mosquitos. Besides, only a few hundred mosquito species even feast on human blood, making it relatively pointless to even try to eradicate the other species. Furthermore, within the known species that feast on human blood, scientists are aware of which ones are truly vectors of disease and what diseases each of these mosquitos can potentially carry and transmit. So, while this greatly narrows down the mosquitos that humanity is ‘at war with,’ it would still be a massive undertaking to attempt to eradicate these insects.
So What Can We Do?
Because we are aware of the different mosquito species that carry specific diseases, scientists have been working on a way to attack the diseases within the mosquitos rather than the mosquitos themselves. The goal is to end the possibility of the mosquitos carrying and spreading diseases. In California, a team of scientists studied the Anopheles mosquito in depth. Not only is this one of the most common mosquito species within the United States, it is also notorious for being the primary agent for spreading malaria throughout the world. The team of scientists introduced modified genes into the Anopheles that actually attacked the parasites inside the mosquitos that are responsible for causing malaria, rendering them unable to pass the disease to humans. Most impressively, this modified gene was specifically designed to become genetically significant within the species, meaning it should pass on to future generations with a 99.5% accuracy rate. Other experiments are taking place tackling different species and diseases in a similar fashion. Perhaps one day we can truly eradicate the danger of mosquitos… although their annoying and itchy presence may be unavoidable.
Riley, C. (2016) What If We Killed All the Mosquitos?, YouTube. SciShow. Available at: https://www.yotuube.com/watch?v=e0NT9i4Qnak (Accessed: June 2020).