["Numbers rule the universe," Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras said. For the month of May, 13.7 Billion Years will reprise the theme from September 2010, presenting a new number to think about each weekday with the series Crunching Numbers.]
Today on WNYC, Brian Lehrer interviewed Robert Sullivan, author of The Thoreau You Don't Know: What the Prophet of Environmentalism Really Meant, who said that the warm winter could lead to a more intense mosquito season.
They discussed mosquito control, ways to prevent getting bitten and the difference between the mosquito sexes.
But what they didn't discuss was the idea of eradicating mosquitoes completely. In an excellent article in Nature, Janet Fang explores the consequences if we eliminated the pest from the world.
Jittawadee Murphy of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Maryland, has studied mosquitoes for two decades. She would be happy if they went extinct.
Entomologist Carlos Brisola Marcondes of the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Brazil, says, "The elimination of Anopheles would be very significant for mankind."
But Bruce Harrison, an entomologist at the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Winston-Salem, sees problems for other species if mosquitoes were gone. He estimates that migratory bird populations in the tundra could be cut in half if they didn't have mosquitoes to eat.
"Mosquitoes consume up to 300 millilitres of blood a day from each animal in a caribou herd, which are thought to select paths facing into the wind to escape the swarm," writes Fang.
- Do you think we should cause the extinction of mosquitoes? [add comment]
- What do you do to avoid being bitten? [add comment]
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