Implications of increasing temperature stress for predatory biocontrol of vector mosquitoes

Mmabaledi Buxton, Casper Nyamukondiwa, Tatenda Dalu, Ross N. Cuthbert, Ryan J. Wasserman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Predators play a critical role in regulating larval mosquito prey populations in aquatic habitats. Understanding predator-prey responses to climate change-induced environmental perturbations may foster optimal efficacy in vector reduction. However, organisms may differentially respond to heterogeneous thermal environments, potentially destabilizing predator-prey trophic systems. Methods: Here, we explored the critical thermal limits of activity (CTLs; critical thermal-maxima [CTmax] and minima [CTmin]) of key predator-prey species. We concurrently examined CTL asynchrony of two notonectid predators (Anisops sardea and Enithares chinai) and one copepod predator (Lovenula falcifera) as well as larvae of three vector mosquito species, Aedes aegypti, Anopheles quadriannulatus and Culex pipiens, across instar stages (early, 1st; intermediate, 2nd/3rd; late, 4th). Results: Overall, predators and prey differed significantly in CTmax and CTmin. Predators generally had lower CTLs than mosquito prey, dependent on prey instar stage and species, with first instars having the lowest CTmax (lowest warm tolerance), but also the lowest CTmin (highest cold tolerance). For predators, L. falcifera exhibited the narrowest CTLs overall, with E. chinai having the widest and A. sardea intermediate CTLs, respectively. Among prey species, the global invader Ae. aegypti consistently exhibited the highest CTmax, whilst differences among CTmin were inconsistent among prey species according to instar stage. Conclusion: These results point to significant predator-prey mismatches under environmental change, potentially adversely affecting natural mosquito biocontrol given projected shifts in temperature fluctuations in the study region. The overall narrower thermal breadth of native predators relative to larval mosquito prey may reduce natural biotic resistance to pests and harmful mosquito species, with implications for population success and potentially vector capacity under global change. [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Article number604
Number of pages11
JournalParasites and Vectors
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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