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Assessing temperature-dependent competition between two invasive mosquito species.

Abstract

Invasive mosquitoes are expanding their ranges into new geographic areas and interacting with resident mosquito species. Understanding how novel interactions can affect mosquito population dynamics is necessary to predict transmission risk at invasion fronts. Mosquito life-history traits are extremely sensitive to temperature and this can lead to temperature-dependent competition between competing invasive mosquito species. We explored temperature-dependent competition between Aedes aegypti and Anopheles stephensi, two invasive mosquito species whose distributions overlap in India, the Middle East, and North Africa, where An. stephensi is currently expanding into the endemic range of Ae. aegypti. We followed mosquito cohorts raised at different intraspecific and interspecific densities across five temperatures (16°C - 32°C) to measure traits relevant for population growth and to estimate species' per capita growth rates. We then used these growth rates to derive each species competitive ability at each temperature. We find strong evidence for asymmetric competition at all temperatures, with Ae. aegypti emerging as the dominant competitor. This was primarily due to differences in larval survival and development times across all temperatures that resulted in a higher estimated intrinsic growth rate and competitive tolerance estimate for Ae. aegypti compared to An. stephensi. The spread of An. stephensi into the African continent could lead to urban transmission of malaria, an otherwise rural disease, increasing the human population at risk and complicating malaria elimination efforts. Competition has resulted in habitat segregation of other invasive mosquito species, and our results suggest that it may play a role in determining the distribution of An. stephensi across its invasive range.

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Citation:

Evans MV, Drake JM, Jones L, Murdock CC. (2021). Assessing temperature-dependent competition between two invasive mosquito species. Ecological applications : a publication of the Ecological Society of America