The researchers went through the entire island with a fine-tooth comb in search of the slightest mosquito or larva. Their goal was to establish a complete inventory of Mahoran species.
Thanks to detailed morphological studies and molecular sequencing of the collected specimens, entomologists were able to assemble a substantial diversity of species considering the small size of the region (376 km²). They listed 4 species of Stegomyia mosquito hitherto unknown, which they named Stegomyia pia. Its shiny black body is adorned with shimmering silvery or yellow scales – “pia” means “pretty” in Shimaore, the language of Mayotte. A pest in a flattering disguise…
Strong suspicions surround the new species
Stegomyia pia indeed has the potential to transmit serious viral diseases like dengue fever and chikungunya, which are rampant in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. It belongs to the same group as Aedes aegypti as well as Aedes albopictus, better known as the tiger mosquito. The species in this group are not only very similar in a morphological and physiological respect, but also have many life-cycle traits in common: preferred breeding areas for larvae, feeding habits, and longevity. All of them are known for transmitting infections through their bite.
As the inventory was mainly based on aquatic larvae stages outside of the epidemic period, the scientists were not able to capture Stegomyia pia carrying one of these viruses in order to demonstrate its vector capacity, but grave suspicions surround this new species.