Mosquitoes maintain a body temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. But when a mosquito sucks some toasty warm blood, its body temperature can rocket up. It’s like developing a huge fever almost instantly. That sudden heat can disable their digestive machinery. But rather than just dining off cold-blooded animals, they've evolved a way to beat the heat. So says a study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [Joshua Benoit et al., "Drinking a hot blood meal elicits a protective heat shock response in mosquitoes"]
As a mosquito's body temperature rises during a warm blood meal, its guts are flooded with a substance called heat shock protein 70. That heat shock protein acts as a sort of chaperone, keeping digestive enzymes from being curdled, and escorting any damaged ones to the waste bin. Other bloodsuckers like bedbugs produce heat shock proteins too—as do we, during a fever.
But when researchers blocked production of that heat shock protein and let mosquitoes feast, the blood meal sat longer in their guts. Which indicates that their digestion was impaired. And as a result they produced a quarter fewer eggs. So researchers looking to cut mosquito populations might try figuring out a way to make them have trouble digesting a hot meal.
[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]