Plasmodium infection decreases fecundity and increases survival of mosquitoes

Proc Biol Sci. 2012 Oct 7;279(1744):4033-41. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.1394. Epub 2012 Aug 1.


Long-lived mosquitoes maximize the chances of Plasmodium transmission. Yet, in spite of decades of research, the effect of Plasmodium parasites on mosquito longevity remains highly controversial. On the one hand, many studies report shorter lifespans in infected mosquitoes. On the other hand, parallel (but separate) studies show that Plasmodium reduces fecundity and imply that this is an adaptive strategy of the parasite aimed at redirecting resources towards longevity. No study till date has, however, investigated fecundity and longevity in the same individuals to see whether this prediction holds. In this study, we follow for both fecundity and longevity in Plasmodium-infected and uninfected mosquitoes using a novel, albeit natural, experimental system. We also explore whether the genetic variations that arise through the evolution of insecticide resistance modulate the effect of Plasmodium on these two life-history traits. We show that (i) a reduction in fecundity in Plasmodium-infected mosquitoes is accompanied by an increase in longevity; (ii) this increase in longevity arises through a trade-off between reproduction and survival; and (iii) in insecticide-resistant mosquitoes, the slope of this trade-off is steeper when the mosquito is infected by Plasmodium (cost of insecticide resistance).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Culex / drug effects
  • Culex / genetics
  • Culex / parasitology*
  • Culex / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fertility
  • Insecticide Resistance
  • Insecticides / pharmacology
  • Linear Models
  • Longevity
  • Oviposition
  • Plasmodium / physiology*
  • Proportional Hazards Models


  • Insecticides