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QUEASY PHOTOS: What happens when a mosquito REALLY bites

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 9th, 2013
Catholic Online (

It's a given that many people will not be in a rush to replay the video anytime soon - Scientists have captured the moment a mosquito pierces its victim has been captured in unprecedented detail.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Filmed by French scientists under a microscope, the video reveals how a malarial mosquito bites and then sucks blood from an anesthetized mouse.
When a mosquito bites, it doesn't just draw blood. The winged insect in fact probes around under the skin to find a blood vessel, usually for several minutes at a time.

Captured by a team at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, the video reveals the incredibly flexible mouthparts of a mosquito that can bend at right angles.

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"Some people, especially in Africa and Asia, are bitten several times every day," Valerie Choumet, who led the research said in an interview. "We wanted to know if mosquitoes behaved differently when they bit animals that were immunized against their saliva."

The team tested mice that had been vaccinated with antibodies that recognize a mosquito's saliva.
Choumet discovered that white clumps form at the tips of the mosquitos probing mouthparts. This indicates that the antibodies had reacted with the insect's saliva during a bite. The clumps then clogged up small blood vessels which didn't stop the mosquitos from drawing blood.

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Instead, it made them probe around the skin longer to target larger blood vessels.

"I was genuinely amazed to see the footage," James Logan from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said in an interview with National Geographic.

"I had read that the mouthparts were mobile within the skin, but actually seeing it in real time was superb. What you assume to be a rigid structure, because it has to get into the skin like a needle, is actually flexible and fully controllable. The wonders of the insect body never cease to amaze me."

Using advanced microscopes, scientists could see the red blood cells rushing up their mouthparts. National Geographic noted that the mosquitos sucked so hard that the blood vessels start to collapse. Some of these cells rupture, spilling blood into the surrounding spaces.

When this happens, mosquitos often rush in for seconds, drinking from the pool of blood created.
A mosquito's mouthparts are an intricate set of complicated apparatus, far from the simple needle-like apparatus that most people imagine. Under a microscope, the "snout" looks like a long narrow piece of material with sides that taper to a point at the tip.

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The flat strip, known as the labrum, is hollow and made up of six different components. It buckles when the mosquito bites, allowing the internal mouthparts to slide into the skin. Four filaments, known as the mandibles maxillae are seen in the video helping to pierce the skin.

"The maxillae end in toothed blades, which grip flesh as they plunge into the host," Yong noted while writing in National Geographic. "The mosquito can then push against these to drive the other mouthparts deeper."

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