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Title: Smelling for Consumption: An investigation of the genetic underpinnings of host-odor preference in Culex pipiens mosquitoes
Authors: Crites, Sean
Advisors: McBride, Lindy
Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Certificate Program: Global Health and Health Policy Program
Class Year: 2022
Abstract: Mosquito-borne illnesses are an ongoing public health threat. Mosquitoes contract and transmit disease when they feed on a host, but little is known about the genetic underpinnings of species-specific attraction to human hosts. Culex pipiens is one species of mosquito that offers an opportunity to investigate host preference, as it exists in two behaviorally different forms: pipiens and molestus. The pipiens form prefers to feed on avian hosts while the molestus form prefers to feed on human or mammalian hosts. These differences in behavior, despite such close genetic similarity, give us the chance to look at genetic divergence between the populations that may correspond to differences in preferred hosts. We collected Culex pipiens individuals in the Schuylkill River Park Area of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania using paired traps baited with synthetic human and chicken odor blends during late July and early August of 2021. We found that the Culex pipiens population was well-mixed, but due to concentration errors with the odor blends, there was no consistent allelic differentiation between individuals collected from mammal- and chicken-baited traps. This made an analysis based on host preference challenging. Despite these challenges, we identified between 42 to 253 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that were divergent between paired chicken- and mammal-baited traps. However, only two genes were both divergent in cross-odor comparisons and less differentiated in same-odor comparisons: Ionotropic receptor 25a and Odorant receptor 203. Future research should further investigate these genes and identify additional genes more confidently associated with host preference to delineate how Culex pipiens’ host preference has shifted from preferring birds to humans.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 1992-2022
Global Health and Health Policy Program, 2017-2022

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