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Mosquitoes Use Vision to Associate Odor Plumes with Thermal Targets

van Breugel, Floris and Riffell, Jeff and Fairhall, Adrienne and Dickinson, Michael H. (2015) Mosquitoes Use Vision to Associate Odor Plumes with Thermal Targets. Current Biology, 25 (16). pp. 2123-2129. ISSN 0960-9822. PMCID PMC4546539. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2015.06.046.

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All moving animals, including flies [1, 2 and 3], sharks [4], and humans [5], experience a dynamic sensory landscape that is a function of both their trajectory through space and the distribution of stimuli in the environment. This is particularly apparent for mosquitoes, which use a combination of olfactory, visual, and thermal cues to locate hosts [6, 7, 8, 9 and 10]. Mosquitoes are thought to detect suitable hosts by the presence of a sparse CO2 plume, which they track by surging upwind and casting crosswind [11]. Upon approach, local cues such as heat and skin volatiles help them identify a landing site [12, 13, 14 and 15]. Recent evidence suggests that thermal attraction is gated by the presence of CO2 [6], although this conclusion was based experiments in which the actual flight trajectories of the animals were unknown and visual cues were not studied. Using a three-dimensional tracking system, we show that rather than gating heat sensing, the detection of CO2 actually activates a strong attraction to visual features. This visual reflex guides the mosquitoes to potential hosts where they are close enough to detect thermal cues. By experimentally decoupling the olfactory, visual, and thermal cues, we show that the motor reactions to these stimuli are independently controlled. Given that humans become visible to mosquitoes at a distance of 5–15 m [16], visual cues play a critical intermediate role in host localization by coupling long-range plume tracking to behaviors that require short-range cues. Rather than direct neural coupling, the separate sensory-motor reflexes are linked as a result of the interaction between the animal’s reactions and the spatial structure of the stimuli in the environment.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription DOIArticle CentralArticle
van Breugel, Floris0000-0001-6538-7179
Riffell, Jeff0000-0002-7645-5779
Fairhall, Adrienne0000-0001-6779-953X
Dickinson, Michael H.0000-0002-8587-9936
Additional Information:© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. Received: May 20, 2015; Revised: June 17, 2015; Accepted: June 19, 2015; Published: July 16, 2015. We thank A. Straw for help with the three-dimensional tracking software, C. Vinauger and B. Nguyen for help with raising the mosquitos, and members of the M.H.D. lab for experimental and manuscript feedback. This work was funded by NIH grant NIH1RO1DCO13693-01. Author Contributions: F.v.B. carried out all the experiments and analyzed the data. All authors contributed to the experimental design, and interpretation of the data. F.v.B and M.H.D. together produced the figures and wrote the manuscript, with help from J.R. and A.F.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Issue or Number:16
PubMed Central ID:PMC4546539
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20150716-090310399
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Official Citation:Floris van Breugel, Jeff Riffell, Adrienne Fairhall, Michael H. Dickinson, Mosquitoes Use Vision to Associate Odor Plumes with Thermal Targets, Current Biology, Volume 25, Issue 16, 17 August 2015, Pages 2123-2129, ISSN 0960-9822,
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:58906
Deposited By: Joy Painter
Deposited On:16 Jul 2015 16:17
Last Modified:26 May 2022 16:21

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