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J Exp Biol. 2007 Jan;210(Pt 2):217-26.

Suppression of water loss during adult diapause in the northern house mosquito, Culex pipiens.

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The Ohio State University, Department of Entomology, 318 W 12th Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


One of the major challenges of overwintering in the mosquito, Culex pipiens, is prevention of dehydration. In this study, we compare the water balance requirements of nondiapausing and diapausing adult females of C. pipiens. Although their percentage water content is lower, diapausing females contain both higher initial and dry masses than nondiapausing individuals. Both nondiapausing and diapausing females tolerate a loss of up to 40% of their water mass before dying, but diapausing female C. pipiens reach this point after a longer period due to their lower rate of water loss. Males, which do not overwinter in diapause, showed no differences in their water balance characteristics when reared under diapausing or nondiapausing conditions. Likewise, no changes were noted in the water balance of pupae, indicating that diapause-related changes do not occur prior to adult eclosion. This mosquito does not replenish internal water stores by generating metabolic water or by absorbing vapor from the atmosphere, but instead relies on drinking liquid water (or blood feeding in the case of nondiapausing females). The critical transition temperature, a point where water loss increases rapidly with temperature, was the highest for females, then males, then pupae, but was not influenced by the diapause program. Females in diapause did not utilize common polyols (glycerol, trehalose and sorbitol) to retain water, but instead the presence of twice the amount of cuticular hydrocarbons in diapausing compared with nondiapausing females suggests that the deposition of hydrocarbons contribute to the reduced rates of water loss. The laboratory results were also verified in field-collected specimens: mosquitoes in the late fall and winter had a lower percentage water content and water loss rate, higher initial mass, dry mass and more cuticular hydrocarbons than individuals collected during the summer. Thus, the major features of diapause that contribute to the suppression of water loss are the large size of diapausing females (reduction of surface area to volume ratio lowers cuticular water loss), their low metabolic rate and the deposition of extra cuticular hydrocarbons.

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