Tuesday, August 02, 2005

So that's how they do it..

Anyone who has ever been in the far north knows that its greatest curse is not cold but blood- sucking summer insects, in numbers that can drain a caribou or a human. So maybe it should come as no surprise that evolution has fitted some birds with their own built- in mosquito repellent.

"Hector Douglas, a University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher, said he made the discovery in the feathers of the crested auklet after applying a little scientific intuition and sacrificing some of his own blood....

"To test his theory, he went into the laboratory with a few auklet feathers. An analysis showed him the chemicals that make up the auklet's "odorant." Most are available commercially.

"He then tested their repellent properties using mosquitoes specially bred at a research lab in Florida for their aggressive tendencies. Douglas dabbed test samples on filter paper, attached that paper to his hand, then put it in a cage with hungry mosquitoes.

"It was clear the auklet samples kept mosquitoes away".

I'm wondering, given birds' vulnerability to arthropod- borne viruses, and their small size (which makes them easy to "drain") whether other such properties will bew found in other species

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