The female mosquito has a sophisticated array of weapons hidden in her proboscis (pictured here in a scanning electron micrograph) that are exquisitely efficient for biting people and collecting blood (colored red) that is required for making her eggs. The mouthpart is made up of six needlelike tools covered by a protective sheath: two maxillae are used to saw into the skin, two mandibles are used to hold the tissues apart as the maxillae saw, the labrum is used to detect a blood vessel, pierce it and suck up blood, and the hypopharynx is used to inject anticoagulants to prevent the blood from clotting in the labrum. And if the mosquito is infected with a virus such as Zika, Dengue or West Nile or a parasite such as malaria? Well, she innocently injects them into the host too—often with devastating effects.
The proboscis was imaged using scanning electron microscopy, and the blood cells were colorized using a computer.
Ted Kinsman, College of Imaging Arts and Sciences, Rochester Institute of Technology, NY.