【Science】Oldest known mosquito fossils show males, too, once sucked blood

Updatetime: 2023-12-06

If you smack at a mosquito on your arm or neck, chances are it’s a female. Only female mosquitoes suck blood, which they need for protein to produce their eggs. Males, which lack females’ skin-piercing mouthparts, feed on nectar and plant juices. But that might not have always been the case: Researchers reported Monday in Current Biology that some 125 million years ago, during the early Cretaceous, at least some male mosquitoes sported sharp mandibles and a long appendage with toothlike bristles, similar to modern females’ piercing parts. Researchers found these ancient bloodsuckers entombed in amber, which had been collected 15 years ago in central Lebanon. They represent the oldest known mosquito fossils yet found. The findings offer good evidence that the earliest known mosquitoes—male and female alike—supped blood from hosts, The New York Times reported on Monday. Rather than evolving to suck blood later in evolution, the researchers say, mosquitoes may have started off as bloodsuckers. If so, males may have only lost the ability as flowering plants proliferated during the Cretaceous period, offering them a food source without the risk of getting swatted.