By Dhriti Sharma, Biological Sciences; Christopher J. Holmes, University of Cincinnati; Elliott Brown, University of Cincinnati; Blaine Payton, University of Cincinnati
Advisor: Joshua Benoit
Abstract: Mosquitoes are vectors of malaria, filarial nematodes and many viruses which makes them one of the deadliest animals in the world. However, research has been inadequate on how dry environments influence aspects of mosquito biology that range from survival to disease transmission. The goal of this study was to determine the impact of dehydrating conditions on mosquito blood feeding and reproduction, specifically in species Culex pipiens a vector of West Nile virus, and Aedes aegypti, a vector of yellow fever, dengue, and Zika viruses. Mosquitoes that were blood fed before dehydration increased survival time when compared to non-blood fed mosquitoes. Dehydrated mosquitoes showed a greater blood feeding propensity when compared to fully hydrated individual, suggesting the utilization of a blood meal for rehydration. Dehydrated mosquitoes are likely using blood meals for survival, water content regulation, and repairing dehydration-induced stress damage rather than reproductive investment. This shifted investment results in dehydrated mosquitoes laying fewer eggs than their hydrated counterparts, even though the blood meal is slightly larger. Our results indicate that dehydration will alter blood feeding propensity and reproductive output, which will shift mosquito vectorial capacity under dry conditions. These results are critical as climate change is expected to increase the duration and severity of drought.