Research Article

Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 955-974

First online:

Modelling evolutionarily stable strategies in oviposition site selection, with varying risks of predation and intraspecific competition

  • Arik KershenbaumAffiliated withDepartment of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, and the Institute of Evolution, University of Haifa Email author 
  • , Matthew SpencerAffiliated withSchool of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool
  • , Leon BlausteinAffiliated withDepartment of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, and the Institute of Evolution, University of Haifa
  • , Joel E. CohenAffiliated withLaboratory of Populations, Rockefeller University and Columbia University

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Many ovipositing mosquitoes, as well as other species, can detect biotic factors that affect fitness. However, a female mosquito seeking a high quality oviposition site (e.g. one with low risk of predation and competition to her progeny) must often balance the competing risk of increasing probability of mortality to herself while she continues to search, against increased probability of finding a high quality site. Such oviposition site selection may affect adult population size. We examined a female mosquito’s expected strategy of oviposition site selection under conditions of varying predator prevalence and adult mortality risk, by combining a detailed structured population model with a Markov chain implementation of the adult behavioural process. We used parameter values from the specific mosquito-predator system, Culiseta longiareolata-Notonecta maculata, although the overall results can be generalised to many mosquito species. Our model finds the evolutionarily stable strategy of oviposition site selection for different parameter combinations. Our model predicts that oviposition strategy does not vary smoothly with varying environmental risk of adult mortality, but that certain oviposition strategies become unstable at some parameter values. Mosquitoes will distribute their reproductive effort between breeding sites of varying predation risk only when adult mortality is low or larval competition high. Our model predicts that females will continue searching for predator-free pools, rather than oviposit in the first site encountered, regardless of the risk of mortality to the adult. The ecological basis for a reproductive strategy with alternative behaviours is important for understanding the effect of biotic factors on the population dynamics of mosquitoes, and for the development of biological control strategies, such as the dissemination of predator-cue chemicals.


Culiseta longiareolata Evolutionarily stable strategy Notonecta maculata Oviposition site selection Reproductive strategy