Science explains why the mosquito is the world's deadliest animal

This insect -- and the diseases it carries -- has killed millions. Is there an ethical way to deal with it?

Published August 26, 2014 1:55PM (EDT)

Mosquito     (<a href=''>mycteria</a> via <a href=''>Shutterstock</a>)
Mosquito (mycteria via Shutterstock)

We may be savoring these late-August days, soaking up the outdoors while the weather holds. However, there is probably an aspect that many are sick of: mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes are not just an itchy outdoor pest, they're also some of the deadliest animals in the world -- beating out sharks, lions and hippos.

"Biologists estimate that this animal has killed half of all humans that have ever lived, and today is responsible for more than 45 million years of lost human life annually," Joe Hanson from PBS's "It's Okay to Be Smart" writes. "Chances are, you’ve been attacked by one."

So why are mosquitoes so deadly? Hanson explains that mosquitoes carry plasmodium falciparum, the protozoa responsible for deadly malaria.

Is there a way to reduce the death toll caused by mosquitoes and the diseases it carries? Hanson explores the ethics of wiping out a species. Watch below:

By Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email

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