BACKGROUND: The Asian tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus is an extremely invasive, globally distributed and medically important vector of various human and veterinary pathogens. In Germany, where this species was recently introduced, its establishment may become modulated by interspecific competition from autochthonous mosquito species, especially Culex pipiens (s.l.). While competitive superiority of Ae. albopictus to Cx. pipiens (s.l.) has been described elsewhere, it has not been assessed in the epidemiological conditions of Germany. The present study aimed to determine if such superiority exists under the physicochemical and microclimatic conditions typical for container habitats in Germany.
METHODS: In a replacement series experiment, the larval and pupal responses of Ae. albopictus and Cx. pipiens (s.l.) (mortality, development time, growth) to interspecific interaction (five larval ratios) at (sub-)optimal temperatures (15, 20 and 25 °C) and differing food supply (3 and 6 mg animal-based food larva-1) were investigated using a randomized split-plot design. In addition to physicochemical measurements of the test media, natural physicochemical conditions were determined for comparative analyses in mosquito breeding sites across the Rhine-Main metropolitan region of Germany.
RESULTS: Under the physicochemical and microclimatic conditions similar to the breeding sites of the Rhine-Main region, competitive superiority of Cx. pipiens (s.l.) to Ae. albopictus in terms of larval survival was more frequently observed than balanced coexistence. Food regime and multifactorial interactions, but not temperature alone, were controlling factors for interspecific competition. Larval food regime and the larval ratio of Ae. albopictus influenced the physicochemistry and algal growth at 15 °C, with increased Ae. albopictus mortality linked to a decreasing number of Scenedesmus, Oocystis and Anabaena algae.
CONCLUSIONS: Under the present environmental conditions, the spread of Ae. albopictus from isolated foci in Germany may generally be slowed by biotic interactions with the ubiquitous Cx. pipiens (s.l.) (and potentially other container-breeding mosquito species) and by limnic microalgae in microhabitats with high resource levels. Detailed knowledge of the context dependency in temperate mosquito ecology, and interrelations of physicochemistry and phycology may help to achieve a better understanding of the upcoming Ae. albopictus colonization processes in central and northern Europe.
- Competitive Behavior