How do malaria mosquitoes swarm and mate? The functional biology of mating swarms

Project Details


Malaria mosquitoes are world’s deadliest creatures, and they infect >200 million people with malaria each year.However, we know surprisingly little about the mechanisms that underlie their fecundity. Mosquitoes mate in-flight in complex 3D swarms that consist of thousands of individuals of multiple sympatric species. It is thought that to avoid hybridization in such swarms, male and female conspecifics perform a mating dance by synchronizing their wingbeats. But interactions between freely-flying mosquitoes within a swarm have never been observed.
Here, we propose to study the complex dynamics of mating swarms using an interdisciplinary approach by combining expertise from neuroscience, engineering/machine vision, behavioral ecology and medical entomology,from laboratories across three continents (Africa, Europe, and N. America). We will study swarm formation, species recognition, in-flight mating, and how these aspects affect mating success and hybridization.
This study will generate a new understanding of the functional biology of mating swarms, and provide crucial knowledge about the mechanisms that underlie the fecundity of malaria-vectors. Using this study, we aim to support the development of malaria-vector control strategies/methods, such as gene-drive, acoustic lures, and monitoring.
Effective start/end date1/07/2130/06/24


  • International Human Frontier Science Program: €302,632.10

Flemish disciplinelist

  • Animal biology not elsewhere classified
  • Neurosciences not elsewhere classified
  • Animal ecology