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Habitat complexity and sex-dependent predation of mosquito larvae in containers

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Studies in aquatic systems have shown that habitat complexity may provide refuge or reduce the number of encounters prey have with actively searching predators. For ambush predators, habitat complexity may enhance or have no effect on predation rates because it conceals predators, reduces prey detection by predators, or visually impairs both predators and prey. We investigated the effects of habitat complexity and predation by the ambush predators Toxorhynchites rutilus and Corethrella appendiculata on their mosquito prey Aedes albopictus and Ochlerotatus triseriatus in container analogs of treeholes. As in other ambush predator-prey systems, habitat complexity did not alter the effects of T. rutilus or C. appendiculata whose presence decreased prey survivorship, shortened development time, and increased adult size compared to treatments where predators were absent. Faster growth and larger size were due to predator-mediated release from competition among surviving prey. Male and female prey survivorship were similar in the absence of predators, however when predators were present, survivorship of both prey species was skewed in favor of males. We conclude that habitat complexity is relatively unimportant in shaping predator-prey interactions in this treehole community, where predation risk differs between prey sexes.

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We thank H. Lynn for providing us with T. rutilus larvae; R. Escher and N. Nishimura for help in the initial set-up and daily maintenance of the experiments; J. Butler for additional laboratory space; S. Juliano, and S. Yanoviak for useful discussions and ideas leading to habitat complexity manipulation; A. Ellis, G. O’Meara, J. Rey, and S. Yanoviak for helpful comments on the manuscript. All experiments were performed in compliance with the current laws of the USA. This research was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (R01-AI-44793). This is Florida Agricultural Experiment Station Journal Series R-10851.

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Correspondence to Barry W. Alto.

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Communicated by Jay Rosenheim

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Alto, B.W., Griswold, M.W. & Lounibos, L.P. Habitat complexity and sex-dependent predation of mosquito larvae in containers. Oecologia 146, 300–310 (2005).

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  • Container mosquitoes
  • Population growth measurements
  • Predator–prey interactions