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Mosquitoes (alternate spelling mosquitos) are a group of about 3,500 species of small insects that are flies (order Diptera). Within Diptera they constitute the family Culicidae (from the Latin culex meaning "gnat"). The word "mosquito" (formed by mosca and diminutive -ito) is Spanish for "little fly". Mosquitoes have a slender segmented body, one pair of wings, one pair of halteres, three pairs of long hair-like legs, and elongated mouthparts.
The mosquito life cycle consists of egg, larva, pupa, and adult stages. Eggs are laid on the water surface; they hatch into motile larvae that feed on aquatic algae and organic material. The adult females of most species have tube-like mouthparts (called a proboscis) that can pierce the skin of a host and feed on blood, which contains protein and iron needed to produce eggs. Thousands of mosquito species feed on the blood of various hosts — vertebrates, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and some fish; along with some invertebrates, primarily other arthropods. This loss of blood is seldom of any importance to the host.
The mosquito's saliva is transferred to the host during the bite, and can cause an itchy rash. In addition, many species can ingest pathogens while biting, and transmit them to future hosts. In this way, mosquitoes are important vectors of diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, chikungunya, West Nile, dengue fever, filariasis, Zika and other arboviruses. By transmitting diseases, mosquitoes cause the deaths of more people than any other animal taxon: over 700,000 each year and as many as half of the people who have ever lived.
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