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Gary H.  Laverty
Associate Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Delaware
Got Blood?: The Evolution of Human-Biting Preference in Mosquitoes

The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the major vector for transmission of numerous viral diseases, including yellow fever, dengue, and now, Zika. Interestingly, different subspecies of A. aegypti are known to exist in close proximity but with considerable genetic divergence between them. One major difference between a "forest" form and a "domestic" form is a strong preference in the latter subspecies for human over non-human blood biting. This difference was explored with genetic and neurophysiological approaches by a research group at Rockefeller University and published in a 2014 paper in Nature. This flipped case study uses parts of the Nature paper to focus on elements of the scientific method as well as evolutionary questions raised by the difference in biting preference between the two subspecies. Students prepare for class by watching a video that provides background information about the published study that forms the basis for the case. In class students then work in groups to develop a hypothesis, predictions and proposed experiments to test the idea of different biting preferences.