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In Brief

Watch a Mosquito Bite From the Inside of a Mouse

A mosquito's mouthparts finding a blood vessel.
A mosquito's mouthparts finding a blood vessel. (Image credit: edyong209 / YouTube )

I used to picture mosquitoes liked winged hypodermic needles, jabbing their rigid, needle-like mouthparts into flesh and slurping blood. But it turns out this view was wrong: Their snouts are surprisingly mobile and flexible, and can bend almost 90 degrees once inside the body to search for blood.

As you can see in the video below, which I stumbled across on Ed Yong's blog Not Exactly Rocket Science, the mouthparts contain multiple parts that diverge once entering flesh. "Four of these — a pair of mandibles and a pair of maxillae — are thin filaments that help to pierce the skin," Yong writes. And the main brown filament is made up of two parallel tubes: a hypopharynx, which emits saliva, and a labrum, which pumps blood back up.

The video was made with a microscope inserted into the skin of an anaesthetized mouse, which was then fed upon by malaria-infected mosquitoes, Yong writes. You can see the mosquito searching around before finally hiting a vein. 

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Douglas Main
Douglas Main loves the weird and wonderful world of science, digging into amazing Planet Earth discoveries and wacky animal findings (from marsupials mating themselves to death to zombie worms to tear-drinking butterflies) for Live Science. Follow Doug on Google+.