Most people think they know the answer to this question, giving answers such as lions, great white sharks or crocodiles. Although, the most dangerous animal to have ever lived is not big or strong and many people do not even fear them. However they do carry more than 100 potentially fatal diseases including malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, encephalitis, filariasis and elephantiasis. They are responsible for the death of HALF the human beings who have EVER DIED, possibly 45 billion people, and even today, they kill one person every 12 seconds!
In case you haven't guessed by now, I am talking about the female Mosquito.
Astonishingly, nobody had any idea that mosquitoes were dangerous until the end of the nineteenth century. In 1877, British doctor Sir Patrick Manson, known as 'Mosquito' Manson, proved that elephantiasis was caused by mosquito bites.
By 1894, it occurred to Manson that malaria may also be caused by mosquitoes. To test this theory, his pupil, Ronald Ross, a young doctor based in India, used birds to show how female mosquitoes transmit the Plasmodium parasite through their saliva. Manson, however infected his own son to show that the theory worked for humans. (His son recovered after an immediate dose of quinine)
Ross won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1902 while Manson was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, knighted and founded the London School of Tropical Medicine.
The female mosquitoes use the blood they suck to mature their eggs which are laid on water. Male mosquitoes only bite plants, and so are not dangerous to humans.
Male mosquitoes also hum at a higher pitch than females, and can be sexually enticed by the note of a B-natural tuning fork.
Female mosquitoes are attracted to their hosts by moisture, milk, carbon dioxide, body heat and movement, while sweaty people and pregnant women have a higher chance of being bitten.
Mosquito means 'small fly' in Spanish and Portuguese. Adult mosquitoes have a relatively short life span of between four and eight weeks.
Although mosquitoes are technically the most dangerous animals that have ever lived, and have killed billions of human beings, they do have natural predators. The dragonfly nymph eat mosquitoes in egg, larva, pupa and adult forms and can be quite effective in controlling mosquito populations.
While mosquitoes may not be as terrifying as a ferocious shark swimming towards you, or a lion ready to pounce, they are far more dangerous and in many cases, deadly.