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Mosquito larvae consumption in turbid waters: the role of the type of turbidity and the larval stage in native and invasive fish


Agricultural runoff and biological invasions alter native species interactions with implications for the management of pests. Here, we used live larvae of common house mosquito Culex pipiens to test the efficiencies of the invasive fish Gambusia holbrooki and the IUCN endangered fish Aphanius iberus to manage mosquitoes at three ecologically relevant concentrations of algae and clay. Both species reduced mosquito abundance in aquaria and outdoor mesocosms though A. iberus reduced it at a slower pace. However, G. holbrooki preferentially captured larger larvae at all fish sizes, whereas smaller individuals of A. iberus captured higher number of smaller larvae. Algal turbidity, but not clay, reduced the efficiency of both species, probably because of an adaptation to inorganic turbidity. Fish efficiency was not reduced in mesocosms where fish captured mosquito larvae interacting with natural invertebrate assemblages. Managers should maintain algal turbidity at < 10 FTU based on the visual detection threshold for both species. Our study shows that algal turbidity threatens the potential of waterbodies to naturally control mosquitoes and discusses why the faster foraging rates of alien species such as G. holbrooki should not be used to justify more introductions.

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We are grateful to F. X. Santaeufemia for providing Aphanius iberus from the Espais Naturals del Delta del Llobregat conservation programme. We also thank all the staff from the aquatic animal facilities at UB: Faculty of Biology. English was reviewed by Laura Massana. This study was funded by the Fundació Barcelona Zoo - Ajuntament de Barcelona. SVA was financed by a Fundació Bosch i Gimpera grant and OCR by an APIF Grant from the University of Barcelona.

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Correspondence to Oriol Cano-Rocabayera.

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The experimental procedure was authorized by the Natural Environment and Biodiversity Division at the Catalan Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (Num. DAAM 8289). Fish capture and maintenance were approved by the Committee for an Ethical Use of Experimental Animals at the University of Barcelona (Num. 193/15). Lab experimentation with endangered Aphanius iberus stocks for ex situ conservation purposes was compensated by returning the experimental individuals and the newborn hatchlings born in the lab to wildlife.

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Cano-Rocabayera, O., Vargas-Amengual, S., Aranda, C. et al. Mosquito larvae consumption in turbid waters: the role of the type of turbidity and the larval stage in native and invasive fish. Hydrobiologia 847, 1371–1381 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-020-04195-0

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  • Aphanius
  • Gambusia
  • Pest control
  • Species interactions
  • Threatened fish
  • Water turbidity