Aquatic Sciences

, Volume 78, Issue 2, pp 303–314 | Cite as

Adaptive growth reduction in response to fish kairomones allows mosquito larvae (Culex pipiens) to reduce predation risk

  • Jonas JourdanEmail author
  • Jasmin Baier
  • Rüdiger Riesch
  • Sven Klimpel
  • Bruno Streit
  • Ruth Müller
  • Martin PlathEmail author
Research Article


Phenotypic plasticity is predicted to evolve when subsequent generations are likely to experience alternating selection pressures; e.g., piscine predation on mosquitoes (Culex pipiens) varies strongly depending on habitat type. A prey-choice experiment (exp. 1) detected a predilection of common mosquito predators (sticklebacks, Gasterosteus aculeatus) for large-bodied mosquito larvae, suggesting that larvae could benefit from suppressing growth under predation risk, and experiment 2 confirmed reduced pupa size and weight when we exposed larvae to stickleback kairomones. In experiment 3, we measured adult (imago) size instead to test if altered larval growth-patterns affect adult life-history traits. We further asked how specific life-history responses are, and thus, also used kairomones from introduced Eastern mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki), and from algivorous, non-native catfish (Ancistrus sp.). Adult body mass was equally reduced in all three kairomone treatments, suggesting that a non-specific anti-predator response (e.g., reduced activity) results in reduced food uptake. However, imagines were distinctly smaller only in the stickleback treatment, pointing towards a specific, adaptive life-history shift in response to the presence of a coevolved predator: mosquito larvae appear to suppress growth when exposed to their native predator, which presumably reduces predation risk, but also affects body size after pupation. Our study suggests that (1) not all antipredator responses are necessarily predator-specific, and (2) fluctuation in the cost-benefit ratio of suppressing larval growth has selected for phenotypic plasticity in C. pipiens larval life histories. This implies costs associated with suppressed growth, for example, in the form of lower lifetime reproductive success.


Chemical cues Inducible defense trait Invasive species Phenotypic plasticity Predator–prey interaction Predator avoidance 



We thank H. Geupel and E. Wörner, who kindly helped with animal care. We also thank J. Kirchgesser for help with data assessment. Artworks (drawings of C. pipiens larvae and pupae, as well as G. aculeatus) were provided by V. Achenbach ( The present study was prepared at the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F), Frankfurt am Main, and financially supported by the research funding program “LOEWE—Landes-Offensive zur Entwicklung Wissenschaftlich-ökonomischer Exzellenz” of the Hessian Ministry of Higher Education, Research, and the Arts. We further thank two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments that helped to improve the manuscript. The authors do not have any conflict of interests to declare.

Supplementary material

27_2015_432_MOESM1_ESM.docx (35 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 35 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonas Jourdan
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jasmin Baier
    • 2
    • 3
  • Rüdiger Riesch
    • 4
  • Sven Klimpel
    • 5
  • Bruno Streit
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ruth Müller
    • 6
  • Martin Plath
    • 7
    Email author
  1. 1.Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F)Frankfurt am MainGermany
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and EvolutionGoethe University of FrankfurtFrankfurt am MainGermany
  3. 3.Master Study Program “Ecology and Evolution” at Goethe University of FrankfurtFrankfurt am MainGermany
  4. 4.School of Biological SciencesRoyal Holloway University of LondonEghamUK
  5. 5.Department of Integrative Parasitology and ZoophysiologyGoethe University of FrankfurtFrankfurt am MainGermany
  6. 6.Department Environmental Toxicology and Medical Entomology, Institute of Occupational, Social and Environmental MedicineGoethe UniversityFrankfurt am MainGermany
  7. 7.College of Animal Science and TechnologyNorthwest A&F UniversityYanglingPeople’s Republic of China

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