Larval diet and temperature alter mosquito immunity and development: using body size and developmental traits to track carry-over effects on longevity

Andrew J. Mackay, Jiayue Yan, Chang-Hyun Kim, Antoine M. G. Barreaux, Chris M. Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



Estimating arbovirus transmission potential requires a mechanistic understanding of how environmental factors influence the expression of adult mosquito traits. While preimaginal exposure to environmental factors can have profound effects on adult traits, tracking and predicting these effects remains challenging.


Using Aedes albopictus and a structural equation modeling approach, we explored how larval nutrition and temperature jointly affect development rate and success, female body size, and whether these metrics capture carry-over effects on adult female longevity. Additionally, we investigated how larval diet and temperature affect the baseline expression of 10 immune genes.


We found that larval development success was primarily determined by diet, while temperature and diet both affected development rate and female body size. Under a low larval diet, pupal wet weight and wing length both declined with increasing temperature. In contrast, responses of the two morphometric measures to rearing temperature diverged when females were provided higher larval nutrition, with pupal wet weight increasing and wing length decreasing at higher temperatures. Our analyses also revealed opposing relationships between adult female lifespan and the two morphometric measures, with wing length having a positive association with longevity and pupal weight a negative association. Larval diet indirectly affected adult longevity, and the time to pupation was negatively correlated with longevity. The expression of eight immune genes from the toll, JAK-STAT and Imd pathways was enhanced in mosquitoes with higher nutrition.


Our results highlight deficiencies from using a single body size measure to capture carry-over effects on adult traits. Further studies of larval development rate under varying environmental conditions and its potential for tracking carry-over effects on vectorial capacity are warranted.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalParasites and Vectors
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2023


  • Tiger mosquito
  • Environmental effects
  • Immune gene expression
  • Vector traits
  • Nutrition
  • Body mass


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