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Interspecific competition between sibling species larvae of Anopheles arabiensis and An. gambiae


Dr Willem Takken, Laboratory of Entomology, Wageningen Agricultural University, PO Box 8031, 6700 EH Wageningen, The Netherlands. E-mail:


Mosquito larvae of the sibling species Anopheles arabiensis Patton and An. gambiae Giles sensu stricto (Diptera: Culicidae) were investigated for interspecific competition. Single-species and mixed-species populations were reared at 27°C from the first instar to pupation at different densities (100, 200 or 400 larvae/200 cm2 tray) with a constant amount of food, 0.2 mg/larva/day. Pupae obtained from mixed populations were identified to species using PCR. Both species had a 1 : 1 sex ratio at pupation. Development time to pupation averaged about one day less for An. arabiensis compared to An. gambiae, ranging from 0.93–1.49 d for males and from 0.44–0.84 d for females in single populations. In mixed species populations the difference for males ranged from 0.99–1.58 d and for females from 0.93–1.62 d. Survival rates of An. gambiae s.s. were significantly higher than those of An. arabiensis in both the single-species and mixed-species populations. Mixed-species rearing did not have an effect on the survival of An. gambiae, whereas the mortality rate of An. arabiensis was significantly higher in mixed populations than when only this species was reared at the same densities, suggesting a competitive disadvantage for An. arabiensis in mixed populations. High proportions of larvae (4–35%) were lost during development; these losses could not be accounted for by corpses found in the rearing pans. The possibility of cannibalism was investigated by rearing each species separately in small containers (five per 50 ml), inspected every 6 h, but no cannibalism was detected at any stage of development in either species. It was concluded that, under these experimental circumstances, interspecific competition between both species did occur but with a detrimental effect on An. arabiensis only. Relevance of these findings to the ecology of both species in the field is discussed briefly.