, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 283-297

Escape from Gregarine Parasites Affects the Competitive Interactions of an Invasive Mosquito

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When a species is introduced into a new location, it may escape, at least temporarily, from its natural enemies. In field surveys, we found that when the exotic, invasive mosquito, Aedes albopictus, invades new sites, it initially experiences reduced infection by its gut parasite, Ascogregarina taiwanensis. To determine the effect of this escape from parasitism on the competitive ability of A. albopictus, we performed a laboratory competition experiment in which infected and uninfected A. albopictus larvae were reared in microcosms alone and in competition with larvae of the native mosquito, Ochlerotatus triseriatus. We analyzed the effect of parasitism by A. taiwanensis on A. albopictus performance when subjected to intra- and interspecific competition across a range of larval densities, as well as the effect of A. albopictus parasitism by A. taiwanensis on the competitive impact of A. albopictus on O. triseriatus. At a density of 30 O. triseriatus larvae, O. triseriatus survivorship was significantly reduced by the addition of 30 unifected A. albopictus, but not by addition of 30 infected A. albopictus, and not by addition of 15 A. albopictus whether infected or uninfected. Although estimated finite rate of population increase (λ') showed similar trends, and was significantly affected by treatments, no pairwise differences in rate of increase were significant. Infection by A. taiwanensis also significantly prolonged A. albopictus female development time and reduced the intraspecific competitive effect of increased density of A. albopictus, but did not affect A. albopictus survivorship, mass, or estimated finite rate of population increase. Thus, when A. albopictus escapes from this parasite as it colonizes new sites, this escape may give it a small, but significant, added competitive advantage over O. triseriatus, which may facilitate range expansion of A. albopictus and enhance A. albopictus's initial impact on resident species.