Honors College Theses

Date

2021

Major

Biology (B.S.B.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. William Irby

Abstract

Wyeomyia smithii, commonly called pitcher-plant mosquitoes, are distributed throughout the eastern portion of North America following the distribution of Sarracenia purpurea, or purple pitcher plant. Wyeomyia smithii is of interest because there are populations that consist of only blood-feeding mosquitoes (Florida), some with only non-blood-feeding mosquitoes (North Carolina), and populations that consist of both (Georgia). This study will focus on finding these genetic differences between Wyeomyia smithii and other species of blood-feeding mosquitoes. The genes from Wyeomyia smithii will be compared to similar genes in other species of mosquitoes to see if there are distinct differences in the proteins the genes code for. This comparison will indicate if the blood-feeding behavior is simply based on the level of gene expression, or if there is a genetic variation that influences the behavioral change. Using the Basic Local Alignment Search Tool tBLASTx, the nucleotide and proteins sequences of multiple species were compared to W. smithii. Two genes were found to have significant changes in the non-blood-feeding species; these genes were phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase gene (PCK1) and the catalase gene (CAT).

This research is significant because it is important to see how exactly mosquitoes are evolving as the climate is evolving. If Wyeomyia smithii has shifted more towards biting as the climate has changed, then other species of mosquitoes may also be evolving in this direction. This research can be further applied to see how all mosquito populations are evolving throughout the world.

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