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Alaska seabird has natural mosquito defense
Study finds crested auklet's citrus odor repels insects


July 24, 2005

Fairbanks, Alaska - If you want to keep Alaska's ravenous mosquitoes at bay, consider living among a colony of crested auklet seabirds.

According to a study in this month's Journal of Medical Entomology, crested auklets emit a citrus-like odor that effectively repels mosquitoes and other pests. Hector Douglas, a researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and lead author of the study, also examined the effectiveness of the natural repellent.

"Interestingly, we found that the effectiveness of the auklet's built-in chemical defense were similar to the mosquito repellents sold commercially" said Douglas.

Douglas said the study of natural chemical defenses used by birds and other animals could result in the discovery of new natural products and new insect repellents.

Crested auklets are small, highly social seabirds that live in large colonies in Alaska's Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. Scientists theorize auklets developed the chemical defense to ward off parasites and other pests. Douglas said the odor may also play an important role in finding a mate.

Researchers from the Virginia Military Institute, Wake Forest University, and the University of Florida participated in the study.



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Institute of Marine Science, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences


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