The Influence of Male Diet on Life History Traits of Female Mosquitoes
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In the field, mosquitoes characteristically feed on sugars soon after emergence and intermittently during their adult lives. Sugar meals are commonly derived from plant nectar and homopteran honeydew, and without them, adults can only survive for a few days on larval reserves. In addition to sugar, females of most species rely on blood for the initiation and maintenance of egg development; thus their reproductive success depends to some extent on the availability of blood hosts. Males, on the other hand, feed exclusively on sugars. Consequently, their sexual maturation and reproductive success is largely dependent upon access to sugar sources. Plant nectar and homopteran honeydew are the two main sugar sources utilized by mosquitoes in the wild. Previous laboratory studies had shown that differences between nectar sources can affect the survivorship and biting frequency of disease vectoring mosquitoes. However, little is known on how sugar composition influence the reproductive processes in male mosquitoes. Male mosquitoes transfer accessory gland proteins and other hormones to their mates along with sperm during mating. In the female, these seminal fluid constituents exert their influence on reproductive genes that control ovulation and vitellogenesis. The present study tests the hypothesis that the mates of males consuming different sugar meals will exhibit varying levels of induction of vitellogenin (a gene which regulates the expression of egg yolk precursor proteins). Real-time quantitative RT-PCR was used to investigate how each sugar meal indirectly influences vitellogenin mRNA abundance in female Anopheles stephensi following mating. Results indicate that mates of nectar-fed males exhibit 2-fold greater change in vitellogenin expression than the mates of honeydew-fed males. However, this response did not occur in non-blood fed controls. These findings suggest that the stimulatory effect of mating on vitellogenesis in blood meal-reliant (i.e. anautogenous) mosquitoes may only be synergistic in nature. The present study also sought to compare the potential fitness costs of mating incurred by females that do not necessarily require a blood meal to initiate a reproductive cycle (i.e., exhibit autogeny). Females of the facultatively autogenous mosquito, Culex molestus were allowed to mate with males sustained on either nectar or honedyew. Mean lifetime fecundity and survivorship of females under the two different mating regimes were then recorded. Additionally, one-dimensional gel electrophoresis was used to verify the transfer of male accessory gland proteins to the sperm storage organs of females during mating.While there was no significant difference in survival between the test treatments, the mates of nectar-fed males produced 11% more eggs on average than mates of honeydew-fed males. However, additional data are needed to justify the extrapolation of these findings to natural settings. These findings prompt further investigation as the differences caused by diet variation in males may be reflected across other life history traits such as mating frequency and insemination capacity.