Add a Comment to this Note (list members only)
Dead medium: Mutant Mosquitoes in Subway Tunnels
From: (Bruce Sterling)

Source(s): *Science* magazine 4 September 1998, Volume 281, page 1443 "Random Samples" page, edited by Constance Holden

"Mutant Mosquitoes

"A variation on the old urban legend about albino alligators dwelling in the New York sewer system comes to us from London: Biologists say a new species of mosquito is evolving in the tunnels of the London Underground. Researchers at the University of London believe the insects are descendants of mosquitoes that colonized the tunnels a century ago when the railways were being built. Originally bird-biters, they apparently evolved new feeding behavior, dining on rats, mice, and maintenance workers. 'It looks as if there has been a unique colonization event,' says biologist Richard Nichols.

"Nichols and colleague Kate Byrne have shown that the Underground mosquitoes, dubbed *molestus,* are now different from *Culex pipiens,* the bird feeders. Genetic studies revealed significant differences in the frequency of alleles at 20 different loci, suggesting that the subterranean pests are well on their way to becoming a separate species, and it is almost impossible to mate the two varieties. The team, which has a paper in press at the journal *Heredity,* also found some genetic differences between mosquitoes on different Underground lines, suggesting that drafts disperse the insects more readily along rather than between lines.

"The Underground provides an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes with its moderate temperatures and pools created by water leaks, says Nichols. 'Human skin and other debris from passengers likely provide food in the pools for larvae.'"

(((bruces remarks: The London Underground is very far from a dead medium, but this eldritch report makes one wonder about other possible speciation events. Chicago's abandoned tunnel system would seem ideal for this. So would the dead Superconducting Supercollider in Waxahachie, Texas. What unique little creatures may end up leaping and crawling in the vacancies of mankind's dead technology? Have they gone all blind and pale yet?)))

Darryl Rehr (