Thursday, 17 September 2015

As Greenland warms, blood-thirsty mosquitoes thrive

SEPTEMBER 16, 2015

by Eric Hopton

They’re hungry, aggressive, desperate, and on the hunt for a “blood meal”. Arctic mosquito populations are taking advantage of global warming and breeding like crazy, and the big increase in mosquito numbers is threatening the survival of the poor caribou of Greenland.

Lauren Culler, an ecologist with Dartmouth’s Institute of Arctic Studies, has been studying Greenland’s mosquitoes, and according to Culler, only 12-15 percent of mosquitoes ever get that all important blood meal—but that’s enough for the species to multiply.

Blame the ladies
As Cullen told Motherboard, only female mosquitoes bite and need a blood feast to reproduce, but it's the higher Arctic temperatures are allowing more mosquitoes to survive and become adults.

The problems start when caribou make their spring migration to feed on new plant growth and give birth to their calves. When they get to the spring pastures, they find the plants have blossomed early in the warmer climate and are already well past their “sell by date”.

The mosquitoes too have cashed in on warmer springs to mature earlier and are just waiting for a mobile blood bank in the form of a caribou, musk ox, or maybe the odd human or two. Understandably, the caribou try to avoid the mosquitoes and head into the hills where cooler temperatures and stronger winds reduce the mosquito threat. Sadly, that uses up energy and feeding time as well as taking them away from their richest food source.

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