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Adaptations to hematophagy in insects and their consequences for parasite transmission
The aim of the present project is to shed light on some fundamental physiological aspects of blood feeding in disease vector insects, which remains unexplored. By employing an integrative approach we will attempt to answer relevant questions, such as: what is the energetic cost of feeding on the blood of endothermic vertebrates? to what extent the rheological properties of the blood of a given host affect the ability of different vector species to feed on its blood? how the differential adaptation to feed on the blood of different host determines specific host/vector associations? what is the impact of the feeding ability on different host on the vectorial capacity of a given species of blood-sucking insect?
Different methodologies will be employed to answer these questions, including methods of functional morphology to analyze morphological adaptations, electrophysiology for recording the activity of ingestion pumps, infrared thermography for analyzing thermoregulatory mechanisms associated to blood feeding, respirometry to measure the metabolic costs of feeding in haematophagous, image analysis to quantify the activity of the hearth and visualize the movements of the muscles of the ingestion pump and others.
The responses to these questions will provide us not only a better comprehension of the physiological basis of host/vector/parasite association, but also to identify novel physiological mechanisms that could be targeted by novel tools for controlling vector populations.