What’s the world’s deadliest animal? A hint — it’s usually smaller than an inch and notorious for itchy bite marks.
Causing roughly 409,000 deaths a year according to the Gates Foundation, mosquitoes are deadlier than sharks, lions, crocodiles, scorpions, tigers, or, even, humans. As a vector for diseases like malaria, which kills nearly one child every minute, the insects are more than backyard nuisances, especially in developing countries. Understanding and subverting the insect’s role as a host for animal and human disease is the life’s work of Dr. Michael Povelones, assistant professor of Pathobiology. (Read more about his research here.) Povelones’s lab on Penn Vet’s Philadelphia campus studies “the most species-rich group of animals on the planet,” and his office is also filled with mosquitoes, of the art and object kind.
1. “Good manners.” I have mountains of artwork from my son Benjamin. These are a few pieces and school writing assignments — I appreciate the reminder that I have good manners [laughing]; it’s always nice to hear. He is seven, and his brother William is three.
2. Mosquito…or is it? I found this metal sculpture at the Chelsea Flower Show in London – it’s another reminder of my time in the UK. I noticed it from afar and knew I had to have it. I learned after buying it that it’s meant to be a bumblebee, which I can sort of see, but to me it resembles a mosquito more than a bee. That’s how I first saw it, and no one has questioned it since.
3. Bottle stopper and bottle. The American Heartworm Society gave the mosquito bottle stopper as an appreciation gift for participation in its triennial symposium. The meeting is the premier place to present heartworm research in the U.S. The stopper is atop an empty bottle of bourbon from Brandywine Distillery — it’s known for gin but also does bourbon, which I prefer. My colleague Amy Durham told me about the distillery’s pandemic delivery program when Pennsylvania liquor stores were closed, and the bottle is a little reminder of the shutdown.
4. Mosquitoes on canvas. My first lab technician, Letitia Thompson, painted this piece for me as a parting gift — I’m proud she just completed her PhD at New York University. Those are the two types of mosquitoes my lab works with: the brown are Anopheles gambiae, the African malaria carrying mosquito; the black are Aedes aegypti that we use for heartworm — it’s a cousin of the tiger mosquito, the kind that are abundant in Philly.
5. Mosquito on camera. The amazing photographer and entomologist Alex Wild shot this. He photographs all manner of insects. I purchased the image for my office — and it has also appeared on the cover of Science magazine.
6. London in Philly. I became a fan of English football — or soccer — as a postdoc at Imperial College in West London, which is near the grounds of Chelsea Football Club. A friend was a season ticket holder, and I went to a lot of top-level games. I loved participating in that aspect of British culture, and I still watch televised games whenever possible.