Mosquito evolution spells trouble for Galapagos wildlife

This is a Galapagos giant tortoise. Photo credit: Penelope CurtisThe Galapagos giant tortoise and other iconic wildlife are facing a new threat from disease, as some of the islands’ mosquitoes develop a taste for reptile blood.

Scientists from the University of Leeds, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Galapagos National Park have discovered that while its mainland ancestors prefer the blood of mammals and the occasional bird, the Galapagos form of the black salt marsh mosquito (Aedes taeniorhynchus) has shifted its behaviour to feed mainly on reptiles – primarily Galapagos giant tortoises and marine iguanas.

The findings raise fears that these changes could devastate the islands’ unique native wildlife if a new mosquito-borne disease is introduced – a scenario which is increasingly likely with the continuing rise in tourism.

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