Almost everyone has gotten up close and personal with a pestering mosquito at least once in his life. But few of us have ever come this close.
In a study published in online journal PLOS ONE, French researchers used a microscope to examine how mosquitoes feed on blood from inside the bitten body. Videos of a feeding mosquito show the insect using its long snout to search for blood vessels within an anesthetized mouse.
The team, led by Valerie Choumet of the Institut Pasteur in Paris, conducted the research to visualize how malaria-infected mosquitoes pass on pathogens. However, the research also presents a close-up demonstration of how the blood-suckers bite.
While mosquitoes may appear to have a single, needlelike snout, the appendage is actually composed of several parts that puncture the skin and spread out once inside, as seen in the video below. The proboscis -- as it is technically called -- is also not stiff, as one might expect. It's flexible.
"I had read that the mouthparts were mobile within the skin, but actually seeing it in real time was superb," James Logan, a senior lecturer who studies mosquitoes at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told National Geographic. "What you assume to be a rigid structure, because it has to get into the skin like a needle, is actually flexible and fully controllable."
Watch the team's microscopic footage in the above video, which shows a mosquito connecting with a blood vessel, and view the clip below depicting the insect's mouthpiece.