APR 09, 2017 8:37 AM PDT

The Mystery Behind How Mosquitoes Fly

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Just because an animal or insect has wings, it doesn’t mean that they can fly. But mosquitoes are just one of the many kinds of insects that are gifted with the ability to lift themselves from solid ground and fly somewhere else.

Mosquitoes fly in a very odd way that scientists have never seen in any animal before.

Image Credit: Makamuki0/Pixabay

On the other hand, mosquitoes fly in a unique way that scientists say no other animal on Earth appears to replicate. Their wings move in an incredibly limited and shallow beat, covering just 44º of span with each beat, which is “less than half the smallest amplitude yet measured for any hovering animal.” Compared to other insects, this number is simply unmatched.

Related: Florida residents are unsure about mosqutio control efforts

Nevertheless, they appear to have no problem flying; so, what’s the secret? That’s what a study published in the journal Nature hoped to find out.

By recording numerous mosquitoes with high-speed cameras, scientists were able to observe their wingbeats at 10,000 frames per second. This allowed them to see their wing movement patterns in unprecedented detail.

Without the help of these high-speed cameras, we’d never be able to see the movement of a mosquito wing, which flaps at approximately 800 times per second.

The camera work showed how mosquitoes actually rotate their wings a certain way with each wingbeat, which allows them to stay aloft. This motion creatures a force known as rotational drag, which acts on their air around the insect and allows it to stay put in the air.

Interestingly, each wingbeat isn’t without its own sector of physics. There are leading and trailing end vortices, which suggests that each wingbeat creates its own whirlwind of pressure that then helps the rotational drag take place.

The pitch angle of the wings, the speed at which they are flapping, and the size of the wing play a critical role in how the mosquito is able to fly unlike any other creature on Earth. After all, most other creatures have an 80º span or more that the wings have to travel to keep them suspended in the air.

Related: Will a mosquito bite you? It depends on their genetics

At the rate of speed that each wingbeat endures, and with so much going on with each wingbeat, the mosquito’s flight method is certainly baffling to say the least. In fact, researchers are going as far as to say that no other animal appears to fly in this manner, suggesting we’re looking at a completely new method of flight here.

Source: Ars Technica

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JUL 19, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Genetic Surveys Could Help Save Coral Reefs
JUL 19, 2020
Genetic Surveys Could Help Save Coral Reefs
Coral reefs are a significant source of biodiversity and may support up to 25% of life in the ocean. Corals around the w ...
JUL 23, 2020
Plants & Animals
Groups Led by Dominant Males Are Less Cooperative
JUL 23, 2020
Groups Led by Dominant Males Are Less Cooperative
When aggressive males led groups of fish in a complex task, those fish did poorly on the task compared to groups led by ...
AUG 05, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Bullock's & Baltimore Orioles May Mix, But They Won't Merge
AUG 05, 2020
Bullock's & Baltimore Orioles May Mix, But They Won't Merge
Researchers have data that can finally settle a long controversy in the birding world.
SEP 06, 2020
Technology
Can Math Determine The Sex of a Dinosaur?
SEP 06, 2020
Can Math Determine The Sex of a Dinosaur?
Can math tell us about the gender differences in dinosaurs? A new study published a novel statistical analysis that esti ...
NOV 04, 2020
Plants & Animals
Scientists Rediscover "Lost" Chameleon Species in Madagascar
NOV 04, 2020
Scientists Rediscover "Lost" Chameleon Species in Madagascar
Voeltzkow’s chameleon was recently rediscovered after disappearing for more than 100 years. According to an articl ...
NOV 24, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Cracking the Code of a Locust Swarm
NOV 24, 2020
Cracking the Code of a Locust Swarm
With a reputation for destruction that goes back to ancient Egypt, locust swarms are once again a major problem for some ...
Loading Comments...