Imitation mosquito ears assist determine mosquito species and gender

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IMAGE: Using a mimicked “ear,” modeled on the organs mosquitoes use to hear, researchers have used sounds to identify the type and gender of a mosquito – just like mosquitoes themselves. The view More

Photo credit: Ziemer

MELVILLE, NY, December 7, 2020 – Using a mimicked “ear,” modeled after the organs mosquitoes use to hear, researchers have used sounds to identify the type and gender of a mosquito – just like mosquitoes themselves.

The researchers hope that one day this bio-inspired detector can be used in the field to save lives by helping more selective use of pesticides and potentially preventing mosquito mating.

Tim Ziemer from the University of Bremen will give a presentation of the new study “A bio-inspired acoustic detector for the gender and types of mosquitoes” at the 179th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, which took place practically in December 7-10. Its session will be presented on December 7th at 1:10 p.m. in the eastern US

Although mosquitoes do not have compound ears like most mammals, they do have remarkable hearing. They use tiny hairs on their antennae that provide information to 15,000 nerve fibers so they can hear and monitor their own location and speed.

To identify other people, mosquitoes make sounds that they cannot hear themselves. The antennae hairs and connected organs help them hear how these sounds are uniquely distorted and combined with the flapping of other mosquitos’ wings, depending on the gender and type of mosquito.

The detector takes the same approach by mimicking the lower part of a mosquito’s antenna which is responsible for turning the emitted sound into something that can be heard. This allows background noise such as mosquitoes to be filtered out, which is more effective than using traditional audio processing techniques.

After the detector transforms the sound, a combination of machine learning and speech recognition tools help differentiate between species and gender.

Ultimately, the detector could be used to identify mosquitoes in the field, where they can then be selectively attacked with pesticides. This could reduce the spread of diseases like malaria and dengue, as well as limit the widespread use of pesticides that are harmful to the environment. The detector can also be used to let individual users know when potentially disease-transmitting mosquitoes are nearby.

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