Mosquitoes Through History Essay

2751 words - 11 pages

No man or beast has caused more human deaths than the dreaded mosquito. Scientists estimate that malaria alone has killed about one half of all the humans who have ever lived on Earth. With the diseases these vectors transmit including dengue, encephalitis and yellow fever, the mosquito is responsible for millions of deaths every year. It is no surprise that the World Health Organization declared these pests as "public health enemy number one." Because of the lethal potential the mosquito possesses, its influence in the course of history cannot be ignored. From the time of the early civilizations to the time of the two world wars, and until now when medical technology is improving in leaps and bounds, the mosquito remains a formidable enemy, becoming even deadlier in time.However, its integration in our history is not limited to its effects to human society; human history itself is at the root of mosquito's lethality. Scientists theorize that prior to the development of human villages, mosquitoes were much less of a threat to humans than in later periods. Aside from the relatively small number that interact with humans before contact with more concentrated settlements, the disease parasites they carried were less potent, and early humans had greater resistance to these parasites. However, at around the same time humans adopted a more settled way of life, conditions were ripe for a mosquito population boom. In time, the diseases they carried evolved, at a more rapid rate than our resistance to them. Because mosquitoes were biologically more resilient than humans, and because their great numbers favored natural selection, the mosquitoes have eluded our attempts to lessen their population or develop a definitive cure for their diseases. As humans improved insecticides, mosquitoes enhanced their resistance; as new medications for diseases were developed, the viruses mutated to more lethal forms. It seems that the mosquito has always been one step ahead of humankind. A step back to when it all began may provide a broader perspective. We can note at least three socio-historical phenomena that dramatically increased their lethality: agriculture, industrialization and migration.T he development of agricultural practices in the Middle East and Northeast Africa in about 8000 BC led to the first significant disequilibrium between humans and mosquitoes. During this period, a shift from a nomadic hunting-gathering economy to subsistence agriculture allowed a more settled way of life in small villages where population density was more concentrated. Humans had also adapted a sedentary lifestyle, staying in more permanent shelters. All these conditions were favorable to the accelerated breeding of mosquitoes near human settlements. Moreover, human activity has forced them to move away from their original territories, in search of new homes. This occurred when, in order to create farmlands vast enough for planting, forests and swamplands were cleared, displacing...

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