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The wooing begins with the female resting on the underside of a horizontal surface, such as a stick or twig. The male, apparently attracted by her stunning beauty, hovers around the female with his leg paddles outstretched. He then places one of these middle legs midlegs over her wing, perhaps preventing her from just flying away, but also to be used as a pivot point as he swings around to face his date and simultaneously grasps the twig with his front legs. Once aligned, the true courtship begins.

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The male waves his free midleg back and forth, apparently showing off his lovely paddle, but eliciting no apparent response from the female. If successful, this display will induce the female to lower her abdomen sufficiently for copulation to take place.

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If unsuccessful, he would return to waving his free midleg, followed by another round of rhythmic body swinging, until she either lowers her abdomen or uses her hind legs to reject him by pushing him away. During copulation, the male gyrates his abdomen while waving his middle and hind legs alternately until mating is completed and the pair disengages Whew! Lots of effort, compared to other mosquito species and most other animals.


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So, in regards to mating, how important are those feather-like paddles? Hancock and his colleagues did some experiments to find out, removing the paddles and observing the results.

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If removed from the female, the males rarely approached. Apparently, for females, the paddles serve to attract the males. However, if the paddles were removed from the male legs, the males approached females to court with the same levels of success. What specific functions these paddles serve on the males remains unknown.

The snow is falling outside my window, as I write this, making me wish that I was in the tropical habitat of the Sabethes cyaneus. Then, I could observe this beautiful mosquito and its unusual courtship behaviors first-hand. For most of the over 3, species of mosquitoes identified, hardly anything is known about their biology and behavior. Perhaps there are other unusual stories of mosquito courtship waiting to be discovered in a tropical forest.


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