Oviposition site selection by mosquitoes is affected by cues from conspecific larvae and anuran tadpoles

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Abstract

Abstract The oviposition site that a female mosquito selects will influence the fitness of her larvae. We conducted a series of artificial pond experiments to compare the oviposition responses of two species of mosquitoes with the presence of tadpoles, conspecifics and chemical cues from these organisms. The two mosquito species differ markedly in larval ecology. The larvae of one species, Culex quinquefasciatus, co-occur with numerous freshwater organisms, including tadpoles of Linmodynastes peronii (the striped marsh frog). Larvae of the other mosquito, Ochlerotatus australis, inhabit small brackish rock ponds where the main potential competitors are tadpoles of Crinia signifera (the common eastern froglet). In field trials, females of both mosquito species oviposited significantly more often in water that contained (or had previously contained) conspecific larvae. However, these superficially similar responses were mediated via different pathways: fungicide abolished the response by C. quinquefasciatus but not by O. australis. The two mosquito species also responded differently to cues associated with syntopic tadpoles. The presence of tadpoles did not influence oviposition by C. quinquefasciatus, but O. australis oviposited less often if tadpoles were present. These interspecific differences in oviposition behaviour may be adaptive to differences in larval ecology: competition with tadpoles is likely to be more significant for O. australis than for C. quinquefasciatus. Our findings thus support the hypothesis that mosquitoes oviposit selectively to avoid potential anuran larval competitors.

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