Mosquitoes have been important vectors of human pathogens for thousands of years, the recent outbreak of Zika virus being the latest evidence of the continuing risk they present. To address the problem of identifying different mosquito species, taxonomists at the Walter Reed Biosystematics Unit (WRBU – http://wrbu.si.edu/), within the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), Smithsonian Institution, have been working since the early 1960s to provide taxonomic information on the various genera and species of mosquito that transmit malaria, dengue and other pathogens.
The WRBU has focussed on building up, curating, and publishing on a mosquito collection, which is now the largest in the world, comprising over 1.5 million specimens. A primary role of the WRBU is to provide support for military personnel and others at the front line who require help in mosquito identification as part of vector-borne disease prevention. To this end, the Unit has been involved for some time in developing online computer-based identification keys for various regions of the world.
While some of these interactive, diagnostic matrix keys are still in development, many keys (>150) can be accessed from a Lucid Server via the WRBU website at – http://wrbu.si.edu/aors/aors_keys.html.
As shown in the following image, users can click on the geographic command (COM) area of concern for a list of keys appropriate to that region.
A recent development is the creation of Lucid Mobile Apps to enable easier access to the keys in the field. The first app is for Central American Malaria Vectors.