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A field test for competitive effects of Aedes albopictus on A. aegypti in South Florida: differences between sites of coexistence and exclusion?

Abstract

We tested whether interspecific competition from Aedes albopictus had measurable effects on A. aegypti at the typical numbers of larval mosquitoes found in cemetery vases in south Florida. We also tested whether the effect of interspecific competition from A. albopictus on A. aegypti differed between sites where A. aegypti either persists or went extinct following invasion by A. albopictus. Similar experiments manipulating numbers of A. albopictus in cemetery vases were conducted at three sites of A. aegypti persistence and three sites where A. aegypti was apparently extinct. The experiments were done using numbers of larvae that were determined by observed numbers of larvae for each site, and with resources (leaf detritus) that accumulated in experimental vases placed into each field site. In both the early rainy season (when number of mosquito larvae was low) and the late rainy season (when number of mosquito larvae was high), there was a significant effect of treatment on developmental progress of experimental A. aegypti. In the late rainy season, when numbers of larvae were high, there was also a significant effect of treatment on survivorship of A. aegypti. However, the competition treatment × site type (A. aegypti persists vs extinct) interaction was never significant, indicating that the competitive effect of A. albopictus on A. aegypti did not differ systematically between persistence versus extinction sites. Thus, although competition from A. albopictus is strong under field conditions at all sites, we find no evidence that variation in the impact of interspecific competition is associated with coexistence or exclusion. Interspecific competition among larvae is thus a viable explanation for exclusion or reduction of A. aegypti in south Florida, but variation in the persistence of A. aegypti following invasion does not seem to be primarily a product of variation in the conditions in the aquatic environments of cemetery vases.

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Acknowledgements

We thank V.A. Borowicz, M.A.H. Braks, K.S. Costanzo, R.L. Escher, V.L. Flanagin, N. Nishimura, and, J. Rivera for assistance in the field or the laboratory, V.A. Borowicz, M.A.H. Braks, D.L. Byers, K. Petren, and two anonymous referees for comments on the manuscript, G.A. Fox for access to laboratory facilities in Tampa, and the managers of Oak Hill, Rose Hill, Orange Hill, Ft. Denaud, Ft. Myers, and Joshua Creek Cemeteries for permission to work on their property. This research was supported by NIAID grant R01-AI44793 to L.P.L., S.A.J., and G.F.O. and sabbatical support from Illinois State University to S.A.J.

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Correspondence to Steven A. Juliano.

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Juliano, S.A., Lounibos, L.P. & O’Meara, G.F. A field test for competitive effects of Aedes albopictus on A. aegypti in South Florida: differences between sites of coexistence and exclusion?. Oecologia 139, 583–593 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-004-1532-4

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Keywords

  • Interspecific competition
  • Mosquitoes
  • Biological invasion
  • Aquatic insects
  • Seasonal variation