An age–size reaction norm yields insight into environmental interactions affecting life-history traits: a factorial study of larval development in the malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto



Conan Phelan, Division of Biological Sciences, University of Montana, Missoula. Tel: 657 206 5115; Fax: 406 243 4184; E-mail:


Environmental factors frequently act nonindependently to determine growth and development of insects. Because age and size at maturity strongly influence population dynamics, interaction effects among environmental variables complicate the task of predicting dynamics of insect populations under novel conditions. We reared larvae of the African malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto (s.s.) under three factors relevant to changes in climate and land use: food level, water depth, and temperature. Each factor was held at two levels in a fully crossed design, for eight experimental treatments. Larval survival, larval development time, and adult size (wing length) were measured to indicate the importance of interaction effects upon population-level processes. For age and size at emergence, but not survival, significant interaction effects were detected for all three factors, in addition to sex. Some of these interaction effects can be understood as consequences of how the different factors influence energy usage in the context of a nonindependent relationship between age and size. Experimentally assessing interaction effects for all potential future sets of conditions is intractable. However, considering how different factors affect energy usage within the context of an insect's evolved developmental program can provide insight into the causes of complex environmental effects on populations.