The olfactory gating of visual preferences to human skin and visible spectra in mosquitoes


Mosquitoes track odors, locate hosts, and find mates visually. The color of a food resource, such as a flower or warm-blooded host, can be dominated by long wavelengths of the visible light spectrum (green to red for humans) and is likely important for object recognition and localization. However, little is known about the hues that attract mosquitoes or how odor affects mosquito visual search behaviors. We use a real-time 3D tracking system and wind tunnel that allows careful control of the olfactory and visual environment to quantify the behavior of more than 1.3 million mosquito trajectories. We find that CO2 induces a strong attraction to specific spectral bands, including those that humans perceive as cyan, orange, and red. Sensitivity to orange and red correlates with mosquitoes’ strong attraction to the color spectrum of human skin, which is dominated by these wavelengths. The attraction is eliminated by filtering the orange and red bands from the skin color spectrum and by introducing mutations targeting specific long-wavelength opsins or CO2 detection. Collectively, our results show that odor is critical for mosquitoes’ wavelength preferences and that the mosquito visual system is a promising target for inhibiting their attraction to human hosts.


ICB Affiliated Authors

Diego Alonso San Alberto, Claire Rusch, Yinpeng Zhan, Andrew D. Straw, Craig Montell and Jeffrey A. Riffell
Peer-Reviewed Article
Nature Communications