Researchers: Pythons Changed Mosquitoes' Diet In Everglades

Oct 8, 2017

University of Florida researchers have more data showing invasive Burmese pythons decimating populations of native mammals in the Everglades.

Entomology professor Nathan Burkett-Cadena led a team collecting Culex cedecei mosquitoes in Everglades National Park. They analyzed animal DNA in the mosquitoes' guts to determine what they had bitten.

The researchers compared their 2016 findings to a similar 1979 study.

Before pythons arrived, hispid cotton rats comprised about 15 percent of the mosquitoes' diet. The rest included raccoons, opossums and deer.

Burkett-Cadena says rats now make up three-quarters of the mosquitoes' diet because pythons have eaten so many other mammals.

The mosquitoes can spread Everglades virus from rats. Burkett-Cadena says it's unclear whether increased feeding on rats raises the risk of the virus spreading.

The journal Biology Letters published the data Wednesday.