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Keywords:

  • Aedes aegypti ;
  • Aedes albopictus ;
  • desiccation;
  • detritus;
  • environmental conditions;
  • equalizing mechanisms;
  • fluctuation-dependent coexistence;
  • season;
  • stabilizing mechanisms

Summary

  1. Theory shows that fluctuation of environmental conditions can produce temporal niches for inferior competitors that mitigate effects of interspecific competition and facilitate long-term persistence of poor competitors.

  2. In south Florida, the mosquitoes Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti often co-occur in water-filled containers despite A. albopictus being competitively superior to A. aegypti. We tested the hypothesis that seasonal fluctuation in environmental conditions reduces or reverses competitive asymmetry between the species and contributes to persistence of the poorer competitor via stabilizing or equalizing effects.

  3. During the Florida wet and dry seasons, we manipulated mosquito egg exposure to desiccation before inducing hatching and allowing surviving larvae to compete for 59 days. The effect of season also incorporated seasonal fluctuations in resource input to experimental containers.

  4. For both species, composite index of population performance (λ') was greater in the dry season than in the wet season, indicating strong seasonal effects on population dynamics. Aedes albopictus was not affected by competition in either season. Aedes aegypti was negatively affected by interspecific competition in the wet season.

  5. Aedes aegypti egg survival was unaffected by exposure to the different experimental environments. There was a small reduction in A. albopictus egg survival in the wet season, but this reduction was unrelated to effects on λ', indicating fluctuation in the egg environment did not contribute to dry season release from competition.

  6. Detritus resource inputs were over three times greater in the dry season than in the wet season. Given the relatively small effect of environment on egg survival, these results suggest that seasonal differences in population performance are driven primarily by per-capita food availability.

  7. Large inputs of detritus in the dry season appear to reduce competition and produce similar responses in both species. This result suggests that seasonal variation contributes to coexistence of A. albopictus and A. aegypti as a fitness-equalizing factor.