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PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e45222. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0045222. Epub 2012 Oct 25.

An analysis of diet quality, how it controls fatty acid profiles, isotope signatures and stoichiometry in the malaria mosquito Anopheles arabiensis.

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  • 1Department of Terrestrial Ecosystem Research, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.



Knowing the underlying mechanisms of mosquito ecology will ensure effective vector management and contribute to the overall goal of malaria control. Mosquito populations show a high degree of population plasticity in response to environmental variability. However, the principle factors controlling population size and fecundity are for the most part unknown. Larval habitat and diet play a crucial role in subsequent mosquito fitness. Developing the most competitive insects for sterile insect technique programmes requires a "production" orientated perspective, to deduce the most effective larval diet formulation; the information gained from this process offers us some insight into the mechanisms and processes taking place in natural native mosquito habitats.


Fatty acid profiles and de-novo or direct assimilation pathways, of whole-individual mosquitoes reared on a range of larval diets were determined using pyrolysis gas chromatograph/mass spectrometry. We used elemental analysis and isotope ratio mass spectrometry to measure individual-whole-body carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous values and to assess the impact of dietary quality on subsequent population stoichiometry, size, quality and isotopic signature. Diet had the greatest impact on fatty acid (FA) profiles of the mosquitoes, which exhibited a high degree of dietary routing, characteristic of generalist feeders. De-novo synthesis of a number of important FAs was observed. Mosquito C:N stoichiometry was fixed in the teneral stage. Dietary N content had significant influence on mosquito size, and P was shown to be a flexible pool which limited overall population size.


Direct routing of FAs was evident but there was ubiquitous de-novo synthesis suggesting mosquito larvae are competent generalist feeders capable of survival on diet with varying characteristics. It was concluded that nitrogen availability in the larval diet controlled teneral mosquito size and that teneral CN ratio is a sex- and species-specific fixed parameter. This finding has significant implications for overall mosquito competitiveness and environmental management.

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