Modeling the effects of Aedes aegypti's larval environment on adult body mass at emergence

PLoS Comput Biol. 2021 Nov 22;17(11):e1009102. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1009102. eCollection 2021 Nov.


Mosquitoes vector harmful pathogens that infect millions of people every year, and developing approaches to effectively control mosquitoes is a topic of great interest. However, the success of many control measures is highly dependent upon ecological, physiological, and life history traits of mosquito species. The behavior of mosquitoes and their potential to vector pathogens can also be impacted by these traits. One trait of interest is mosquito body mass, which depends upon many factors associated with the environment in which juvenile mosquitoes develop. Our experiments examined the impact of larval density on the body mass of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which are important vectors of dengue, Zika, yellow fever, and other pathogens. To investigate the interactions between the larval environment and mosquito body mass, we built a discrete time mathematical model that incorporates body mass, larval density, and food availability and fit the model to our experimental data. We considered three categories of model complexity informed by data, and selected the best model within each category using Akaike's Information Criterion. We found that the larval environment is an important determinant of the body mass of mosquitoes upon emergence. Furthermore, we found that larval density has greater impact on body mass of adults at emergence than on development time, and that inclusion of density dependence in the survival of female aquatic stages in models is important. We discuss the implications of our results for the control of Aedes mosquitoes and on their potential to spread disease.

Grant support

CV was supported by the USDA, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch project #1017860. CV, KC, LC, and MW received support from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) via a Center for Emerging, Zoonotic, and Arthropod-borne Pathogens grant. LC and MW were supported by NSF Grant #1853495. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.