Reconstructing the flight kinematics of swarming and mating in wild mosquitoes

J R Soc Interface. 2012 Oct 7;9(75):2624-38. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2012.0150. Epub 2012 May 23.


We describe a novel tracking system for reconstructing three-dimensional tracks of individual mosquitoes in wild swarms and present the results of validating the system by filming swarms and mating events of the malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae in Mali. The tracking system is designed to address noisy, low frame-rate (25 frames per second) video streams from a stereo camera system. Because flying A. gambiae move at 1-4 m s(-1), they appear as faded streaks in the images or sometimes do not appear at all. We provide an adaptive algorithm to search for missing streaks and a likelihood function that uses streak endpoints to extract velocity information. A modified multi-hypothesis tracker probabilistically addresses occlusions and a particle filter estimates the trajectories. The output of the tracking algorithm is a set of track segments with an average length of 0.6-1 s. The segments are verified and combined under human supervision to create individual tracks up to the duration of the video (90 s). We evaluate tracking performance using an established metric for multi-target tracking and validate the accuracy using independent stereo measurements of a single swarm. Three-dimensional reconstructions of A. gambiae swarming and mating events are presented.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Anopheles / physiology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Female
  • Flight, Animal / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mali
  • Models, Biological*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Video Recording