978-0-7868-8667-8 / 9780786886678

Mosquito: The Story of Man's Deadliest Foe





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About the book:

According to Andrew Spielman, a Harvard University specialist in tropical disease and his coauthor of Mosquito, award-winning science writer Michael D'Antonio, no animal on earth has touched so directly and profoundly the lives of so many human beings as the mosquito. Mosquito is their fascinating account for the general reader of the life story of this tiny insect and the havoc it has wrought over the millennia from the Roman soldiers that died of malaria in Scotland to the tens of thousands that died of yellow fever during the first attempt by the French to build the Panama canal at the end of the 19th century. Now the mosquito is back with a vengeance and her pathogens are apparently getting worse, making more people sick and claiming more lives, millions of lives, every year. Mosquito is full of fascinating facts and stories about the amazing variability of the insect. There are some 2500 species of mosquito compared with 4000 species for all mammals. Mosquitoes can survive almost anywhere on land from below sea level in the Californian desert up to 8000 ft in the Himalayas, and Spielman has found the common house mosquito from Harvard in the US to Confucius's grave in China. Some are so numerous and voracious that herds of caribou will migrate hundreds of miles to try and avoid the aggressive Arctic mosquitoes. Only the female mosquito practices the vampirism that does the damage and then she is only trying to feed her eggs. Reading her life story, one almost feels sorry for her. But she is the unwitting host to numerous lethal pathogens that not only cause malaria but also dengue, West Nile fever, yellow fever, etc. As Spielman and D'Antonio say, "The key to our relationship with the mosquito is getting to know it better... we still do not know what it is about blood, specifically, that mosquitoes crave for reproduction." Check the distribution maps at the back before you next take an exotic holiday. --Douglas Palmer

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