Mosquitoes (family Culicidae, from the Latin culex meaning “midge” or “gnat”) are a family of flies consisting of approximately 3,500 known species. The word “mosquito” comes from Spanish and Portuguese, meaning “little fly.” These insects have existed since the Mesozoic era; they are believed to have first appeared 226 million years ago, around which time the culicid lineage divided into two subfamilies: Anophelinae and Culicinae. Mosquitoes with anatomy similar to that of modern species have been discovered dating back to the Cretaceous period; the oldest example is Paleoculicis minutus, found in 79-million-year-old amber from Canada. Older mosquitoes with more primitive features are known from Burmese amber samples believed to be 90 to 100 million years old. Mosquitoes with completely modern features are not known until 46 million years ago, in the Eocene epoch of the Cenozoic era.
Mosquitoes are infamous carriers of blood-borne disease, including potentially fatal illnesses such as malaria. This is due to the feeding behavior of the female mosquito, who utilizes the protein found in blood as nourishment for her eggs. Mosquitoes, like many small animals, often become trapped in resin from trees and die there. Under the right conditions, this tree resin can fossilize and become the gemstone amber. International Genetic Technologies has famously made use of amber samples containing blood-engorged female mosquitoes from the Mesozoic era to obtain paleo-DNA, which has revolutionized the field of paleogenetics and allowed for the de-extinction of Mesozoic organisms.
Mosquitoes have varying body plans depending on species, but are generally very small, lightly-built flies with long legs. The body is usually slender. Like all insects, the adult has six limbs and a segmented body; like all flies, it has a single pair of wings, which are extensions of its exoskeleton. On its head, an adult mosquito has a pair of antennae, which often appear feathery; it also has a pair of maxillary palps, one on either side of its face. These are used as sensory organs. The largest known mosquito grows to 19mm (0.7 inches) long, while the smallest reaches 2mm (0.1 inches) long. Most species grow to three to six millimeters long.
The mosquito’s most characteristic feature is its proboscis, which it uses to feed. Situated beneath its comparatively-huge compound eyes, the proboscis is an incredibly thin straw-like structure which pierces the flesh of its food source like a hypodermic needle. Unlike popular culture depictions of mosquitoes, the proboscis is not the mosquito’s “nose,” and it does not have a “mouth” underneath the proboscis. The proboscis is the mosquito’s mouth. The most visible part is called the labium, which acts as a guide for the other mouthparts. There are six other mouthparts; the mandibles and maxillae are the ones that actually pierce the skin of the host, the hypopharynx is used to deliver saliva, and the labrum is used to draw out blood.
As with all insects, the mosquito’s body is divided into a head, thorax, and abdomen. The thorax is the segment to which the legs and wings attach, while the abdomen contains much of the digestive system. The female’s abdomen is designed to contain large amounts of blood, and can distend to hold three times her weight in blood. Eggs are produced from the abdomen.
Mosquitoes go through a process of metamorphosis as they grow. The first stage of the life cycle is called the larva. These are a familiar sight, commonly seen in stagnant water such as ponds. The larva, sometimes called a “wriggler,” is a limbless worm-like creature with a well-defined head, large thorax, and segmented abdomen. In some cases, the larva may be large and bulky compared to the adult. Larvae are aquatic, but cannot breathe underwater; they surface frequently to breathe, either through spiracles on the eighth abdominal segment or through a siphon. The larva has brushes on its mouth that it uses to feed on microorganisms. Numerous thin hairs are present on the sides of the larva; it uses these, along with the brushes on its head, to swim by jerking its body back and forth. After five days to two weeks, the larva will metamorphose into a pupa.
The mosquito pupa is a comma-shaped creature, commonly called a “tumbler.” Its head and thorax are fused, combining into a cephalothorax. The abdomen curves beneath, and it swims by flipping its abdomen. Like the larvae, the pupae must breathe air despite living in water, so they float to the surface and breathe through a pair of respiratory trumpets. However, the pupae do not eat. After several days, the pupae will come to the surface for their final metamorphosis. The cephalothorax splits open and the adult, or imago, emerges. Adult males will live for up to one week, but may live for as few as five days. Adult females commonly live for two weeks in the wild, but in captivity, have been known to live for up to a month.
Most mosquito species exhibit sexual dimorphism. In many species, the female is larger than the male, with a thicker abdomen. The male of many mosquitoes can be distinguished by bushier antennae and longer maxillary palps; in such species, the male’s palps are longer than the proboscis, while the reverse is true in females.
During reproduction, the female can easily be identified by the fact that she feeds on blood from animal hosts. The male does not.
Because of their aquatic larval stage, mosquitoes are most commonly associated with sources of stagnant fresh water, such as ponds and wetlands. They are found in forested areas where their food sources live; they primarily feed on plant fluids, but the female will target animals when reproducing. The thousands of mosquito species are known from every continent except Antarctica, though they are most common in humid and warm regions. Mosquitoes have been widespread over the world for hundreds of millions of years, as evidenced by the numerous fossil remains recovered by InGen.
As a forested tropical environment, Isla Nublar is an ideal mosquito habitat.
While mosquitoes have not been described in the films from this island, the mobile game Jurassic Park Builder includes a plotline in which John Hammond becomes infected with malaria while in the northern forests of the island. Malaria is caused by Plasmodium species, particularly P. falciparium, protozoans which inhabit mosquitoes. The female Anopheles mosquito is known for transmitting malaria, so it is most likely the one featured in the game. This game’s sequel, Jurassic World: The Game, also makes mention of mosquitoes living on Isla Nublar. This time, the mosquitoes are noticed at the Control Room building, which is located in the central part of the island just north of Main Street.
Much like Isla Nublar, Isla Sorna is an ideal habitat for mosquitoes due to its wet, humid forests.
In the junior novel Survivor, mosquitoes are mentioned by Eric Kirby as one of the inhabitants of Isla Sorna along with various other modern animals.
Mosquitoes most likely inhabit the other islands of the Muertes Archipelago.
These insects are found over much of the world’s landmasses, including every continent except Antarctica. They are even found on distant islands in the middle of the ocean, as they are easily blown there by wind. Mosquitoes are notably rare or absent on polar or subpolar islands, such as Iceland.
Behavior and Ecology
In real life, many mosquito species are crepuscular or nocturnal, active mostly when other animals are sleeping. However, some are equally active during the day.
Diet and Feeding Behavior
The diet of the mosquito varies as it grows. When it is a larva, it feeds using the brushes on its head, which it uses to deliver food to its mouth. The larva’s diet consists of microorganisms, and it is an omnivore; it may feed on bacteria, microalgae, and minute pieces of organic material. It feeds from the surface microlayer of the water.
Pupae do not eat, and are relatively inactive. Upon reaching adulthood, the mosquito primarily feeds on fluids from plants, such as nectar. Females will turn hematophagous when it is time for them to reproduce; they consume blood to provide their developing eggs with protein and iron. To feed from a host, the mosquito will pierce the skin using parts of its proboscis. Its saliva prevents blood from clotting, so the mosquito can feed until it is full or until the host notices it.
To select an ideal host, the mosquito uses an array of incredible sensory abilities. They prefer hosts with Type O blood, heavy breathing, high body heat, and high quantities of skin bacteria. They also target pregnant hosts. All of these qualities in a host can be detected by the mosquito from some distance away, and are determined by chemical signals and the scent of sweat in the host.
While most mosquitoes engage in blood-feeding, some, such as the elephant mosquitoes of the genus Toxorhynchites, do not. Instead, the adults feed on nectar, honeydew, sap, and other plant fluids even when reproducing. The larvae of elephant mosquitoes are predators, feeding on tiny freshwater organisms (including the larvae of smaller mosquitoes).
Host species vary from one species of mosquito to another. This relationship extends hundreds of millions of years back through time; nearly every species that InGen has recreated through cloning was potentially a host to mosquitoes. The only species that definitely were not would have been species that lived earlier than 226 million years ago, such as Herrerasaurus. Even plant life has been host to mosquitoes since the Mesozoic; this enabled InGen to bring plant species back from extinction, such as the veriformans of the Cretaceous period.
In the modern day, mosquitoes will primarily take blood meals from mammals and birds. They also feed from reptiles, amphibians, and even some fish. A few mosquitoes will feed from insects and other arthropods.
Mosquitoes are not known for being social, though they will tolerate one another and can often be found in enormous swarms. This is less due to a need for interaction than it is the mosquitoes all flocking to an area where conditions are ideal. Males will congregate in swarms to attract females, coordinating through the use of pheromones and visual signals.
Eggs are laid in stagnant water sources, typically in large clusters that float on the surface. Some lay eggs in ponds, either on the shore or on aquatic plants, while others lay eggs in water that pools inside of plants. The oviposition behavior and egg morphology varies with species. Some mosquitoes are tolerant of salt water; some even specialize in salt marshes and estuaries. In most species, the female is careful of choosing where her eggs are laid, picking a location that is ideal for her species’ needs.
Larvae hatch from the eggs after a variable number of days, and typically metamorphose after five to fourteen days. The pupae will then metamorphose once more after a few days. Adults have very short lifespans; the males may only live for five days. As a result, the males will likely only mate once. Females, on the other hand, can reproduce several times until they die. Males have enlarged antennae to detect the characteristic whining sound made by the females’ wings, and in most species, males will gather in huge swarms which the females will then fly into in order to find mates. Once mated, the females will continue consuming blood to provide nutrients for their eggs, and once they are full they will rest for a few days as their eggs develop. They will then lay the eggs in a suitable place and resume the cycle.
Mosquitoes do not have a complex social life, and so do not communicate extensively. They can coordinate by the use of scent, sight, and hearing. Males have larger antennae than females, and have better hearing; they use their sense of hearing to listen for the distinctive sounds made by the wings of the female in flight.
Throughout the history of their family, mosquitoes have preyed upon countless plant and animal species spanning 226 million years up until the present day. Their hosts include virtually all known types of vertebrate life, as well as some species of arthropods.
Mosquitoes are perhaps best known for their ability to spread blood-borne disease. If a mosquito drinks the blood of an infected animal, it becomes something akin to a dirty needle. Any animals that it feeds from in the future are at risk of becoming infected by whatever pathogen the mosquito contains in its stomach. One of the most infamous of these is malaria, a disease caused by Plasmodium; the mobile game Jurassic Park Builder portrays this disease as occurring on Isla Nublar. Mosquitoes are known to spread diseases that affect species other than humans, making them a risk to other animals as well.
However, mosquitoes themselves are affected by parasitic fungi and nematodes. Fish such as the mosquitofish, copepods, and dragonfly nymphs all feed on the larvae, and some fish and adult dragonflies feed on the adults. Some lizards, such as geckoes, also feed on adult mosquitoes.
Interactions with Humans
Humans, like all animals, are affected by mosquitoes. These insects are commonly seen as pests, as their feeding causes inflammation which can persist for days as the body responds to proteins left over from the insects’ saliva. More seriously, some of the diseases transmitted by mosquitoes can affect humans; some are difficult to treat, and can be fatal. The larvae of the elephant mosquito, on the other hand, are beneficial to humans because they feed on other mosquito species’ larvae.
In the Genetic Age, mosquitoes and other hematophagous organisms have had an unexpected role to play in the scientific field. If a female mosquito feeds on the blood of an organism, becomes trapped in tree resin, and becomes fossilized among certain iron structures, scientists can recover the fossil and extract paleo-DNA from the mosquito. First demonstrated by paleogeneticist Dr. Laura Sorkin in 1985, scientists have since performed de-extinction procedures on a great many species using amber samples containing mosquitoes and other parasites.
The relationship between mosquitoes and genetic resurrection is explored in a different way in the mobile game Jurassic World: The Game. In this game, Dr. Henry Wu explains that some of the dinosaurs’ genomes are contaminated with gene inclusions from the same prehistoric mosquitoes their DNA was obtained from, which causes malformations, shortened lifespans, and other health problems. Part of the game’s plot involves Dr. Wu identifying “legacy” assets which have contaminated DNA and “candidate” assets which are free of contamination.