Many years ago in another twin study we showed that underarm body odour as perceived by human sniffers had a genetic basis – with huge variability in how strong smells were perceived. This showed that we have gene variations controlling both the odours we perceive and the chemical odours we produce. In this way we are similar to mosquitoes because they also have big differences in which odours and chemicals attract and repel them.
Different mosquitoes prefer different parts of our bodies to others. The species Aedes Gambiae prefers the odours of our hands and feet to other bits like groins and armpits. Some animals use their body odour to keep insects away and companies have been trying to unravel what the best chemicals are.
So, the next time you get bitten by a mosquito on the ankle – don’t blame bad luck or your cheap repellent – think of the amazing evolutionary match-making processes that hooked up your special mix of genes to a particular community of microbes that feed off your skin and produce a chemical that only certain species of mosquito find irresistible.