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Keywords:

  • constraints;
  • host-parasite interaction;
  • insects;
  • life history evolution;
  • malaria;
  • natural selection;
  • trade-offs

Abstract

We investigated the fitness consequences of specialization in an organism whose host choice has an immense impact on human health: the African malaria vector Anopheles gambiae s.s. We tested whether this mosquito’s specialism on humans can be attributed to the relative fitness benefits of specialist vs. generalist feeding strategies by contrasting their fecundity and survival on human-only and mixed host diets consisting of blood meals from humans and animals. When given only one blood meal, An. gambiae s.s. survived significantly longer on human and bovine blood, than on canine or avian blood. However, when blood fed repeatedly, there was no evidence that the fitness of An. gambiae s.s. fed a human-only diet was greater than those fed generalist diets. This suggests that the adoption of generalist host feeding strategies in An. gambiae s.s. is not constrained by intraspecific variation in the resource quality of blood from other available host species.