Telling Mosquitoes Apart With a Cellphone

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Simple cellphones can tell one type of mosquito from another by their hums, which may be useful in fighting mosquito-borne diseases, according to new research from Stanford University.

Calling their project “Shazam for Mosquitoes,” after the phone app that identifies music, students from the university’s Bio-X institute showed that common cellphones could record mosquito wing beats accurately enough to distinguish, for example, Culex mosquitoes, which spread West Nile virus, from Aedes mosquitoes, which spread Zika.

Even older flip phones, which are still used in parts of Africa, are sensitive enough to do the job.

The students envision a crowdsourcing initiative in which phone users around the world send in sound samples of mosquitoes landing on them, which could be sorted by the embedded GPS and time coordinates to build a worldwide mosquito distribution map.

It would be far less cumbersome than the current technique: trapping insects for hand sorting.

Mosquitoes use their wing-beat hums to find one another for mating. The sounds are distinct, and even big and small members of one species make similar hums.

Source: New York TImes (link opens in a new window)

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