The Web of Life (6-2) Telltale Smell

 Telltale Smell

Mosquitoes find succulent humans and other beasts by sniffing them out. Even a minute emission of nonanal (C9H18O) – an oil which humans exude from their skin – invites a mosquito.

The mosquito’s daily biorhythm gears up its olfaction equipment so that mosquitoes’ sense of smell is better at night than during the day, when it is asleep. As victims can’t see it coming, nighttime is the right time for bloodsucking.


The prey that gives itself away implies that sheer corporeality is communication. So it is.

Exchanging chemical compounds is common to all life. However hard-pressed one might be to call viral invasion aggressive negotiation, it often is just that.

Many viruses can mimic a host cell protein or other cell component responsible for initiating a defense response, and so can get on with their business of infection without interference. In this instance, stifling normal signaling qualifies as communication, albeit a sly one indeed.