The AMSER Science Reader Monthly aims to provide educators with a useful package of information about a particular topic related to applied math and science by combining freely available articles from popular journals with curriculum, learning objects, and web sites from the AMSER portal. The AMSER Science Reader Monthly is free to use in the classroom and educators are encouraged to contact AMSER with suggestions for upcoming issues or comments and concerns at email@example.com.
This month's AMSER Science Reader Monthly topic is Applied Ecology.
Ecology: A world without mosquitoes
Article by Janet Fang for Nature
Synopsis and resource annotations by Max Grinnell
What would happen in a world without mosquitoes? It's an intriguing question for those who fight the malaria-carrying insects on a daily basis. Scientists have thought about such a scenario before, and it is a line of inquiry that is more than just conjectural. Some believe that the complete eradication of mosquitoes could have a wide range of effects in ecosystems, while other scientists maintain that things would continue on much as before.
This piece from the July 21, 2010 edition of Nature was written by reporter Janet Fang, and she investigates the potential long term serious consequences of eradicating mosquitoes. Fang begins by talking about the diseases that mosquitoes help spread, most notably malaria, which infects around 247 million people worldwide each year.
Generally, mosquitoes are considered quite pesky as well, and the piece talks about their overall nuisance factor. So what would happen if mosquitoes disappeared from the planet? For answers, Fang turns to a number of different scientists, including several entomologists.
Carlos Brisola Marcondes from the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Brazil remarks that a world without mosquitoes would be "more secure for us" and insect ecologist Steven Juliano notes that it might be "difficult to see what the downside would be to removal." However, scientists would be concerned about ecosystems of fish. Hundreds of species of fish would have to change their diet significantly, along with other animals like spiders and salamanders, should mosquitoes disappear.
The piece also notes that mosquitoes might still provide important "ecosystem services," benefits that humans derive from nature. For example, without mosquitoes many plant species would lose a group of pollinators. Of course, there is much work to be done in this area of inquiry, and this article also features a place where readers can submit their own commentary as well.Found below is a list of useful resources that will illuminate and enhance understanding of the topics found within this article. The first link will take users to a fine page from Rutgers University that offers many details about mosquito biology. Moving on, the second link leads to a case study from the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Pathology, which provides an interesting look at the symptoms and treatment of malaria. The third link will take interested parties to a site from Texas A & M University's Department of Entomology. Here they can learn about insects' relationship with humans, agriculture, and lawns. The fourth link leads to a site dedicated to ecosystems, and will help visitors understand the role organisms play in every ecosystem. The fifth link whisks users away to the very comprehensive World Biodiversity Database, which provides taxonomic information and other materials on 200,000 taxa. The final link leads to Insects.org, which features material for educators involving various insects and a number of detailed photographs.
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