Productivity (i.e., the rate at which energy flows through a system) affects community structure, the outcomes of competition and predation, population increase, and individual growth and survival. Mosquito species that occur in containers are strongly affected by the quality and quantity of added detritus (e.g., senescent leaves), which is the principal basis for productivity in these systems. However, mosquito larvae do not consume detritus directly, but instead consume microorganisms, including protozoa, fungi, and bacteria. It remains unclear how the types and amounts of detritus added to container systems affect the productivity of microorganisms, and in turn, how this productivity translates into variation in mosquito performance. I have conducted a series of experiments that examine how detritus additions affect microorganism productivity, and how variation in productivity then affects the performance of two container-dwelling mosquitoes species, Ochlerotatus triseriatus and Aedes albopictus. I measure microorganism productivity by determining whole-community microorganism respiration rates (ml O2/hr) in the laboratory. In all studies, respiration rates increased significantly with increasing leaf quantity, and were significantly and consistently higher for some leaf species (e.g., American Elm). Furthermore, this variation in microorganism productivity was significantly related to mosquito performance, with higher microorganism respiration rates usually resulting in greater survivorship and adult mass. Taken together, these studies suggest that microorganism respiration rates are strongly affected by the type and quantity of detritus input, and more importantly, that microorganism respiration rates are an important determinant of mosquito growth and survival for these medically important species.
Species 1: Diptera Culicidae Ochlerotatus triseriatus (Eastern Tree Hole mosquito)
Species 2: Diptera Culicidae Aedes albopictus (Asian Tiger mosquito)
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