Spatial distribution and male mating success of Anopheles gambiae swarms

Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, Maryland 20852, USA.
BMC Evolutionary Biology (Impact Factor: 3.37). 06/2011; 11(1):184. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2148-11-184
Source: PubMed


Anopheles gambiae mates in flight at particular mating sites over specific landmarks known as swarm markers. The swarms are composed of males; females typically approach a swarm, and leave in copula. This mating aggregation looks like a lek, but appears to lack the component of female choice. To investigate the possible mechanisms promoting the evolution of swarming in this mosquito species, we looked at the variation in mating success between swarms and discussed the factors that structure it in light of the three major lekking models, known as the female preference model, the hotspot model, and the hotshot model.
We found substantial variation in swarm size and in mating success between swarms. A strong correlation between swarm size and mating success was observed, and consistent with the hotspot model of lek formation, the per capita mating success of individual males did not increase with swarm size. For the spatial distribution of swarms, our results revealed that some display sites were more attractive to both males and females and that females were more attracted to large swarms. While the swarm markers we recognize help us in localizing swarms, they did not account for the variation in swarm size or in the swarm mating success, suggesting that mosquitoes probably are attracted to these markers, but also perceive and respond to other aspects of the swarming site.
Characterizing the mating system of a species helps understand how this species has evolved and how selective pressures operate on male and female traits. The current study looked at male mating success of An. gambiae and discussed possible factors that account for its variation. We found that swarms of An. gambiae conform to the hotspot model of lek formation. But because swarms may lack the female choice component, we propose that the An. gambiae mating system is a lek-like system that incorporates characteristics pertaining to other mating systems such as scramble mating competition.


Available from: Diana Huestis
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    • "Mating in An. gambiae occurs in male swarms, which await and then compete for, arriving females. Such swarms apparently lack a female-choice component, placing more emphasis on male competition [33]. It has also been suggested that slower development of transgenic mosquito larvae can delay the onset of male sexual maturity [12]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Mosquito-borne diseases present some of the greatest health challenges faced by the world today. In many cases, existing control measures are compromised by insecticide resistance, pathogen tolerance to drugs and the lack of effective vaccines. In light of these difficulties, new genetic tools for disease control programmes, based on the deployment of genetically modified mosquitoes, are seen as having great promise. Transgenic strains may be used to control disease transmission either by suppressing vector populations or by replacing susceptible with refractory genotypes. In practice, the fitness of the transgenic strain relative to natural mosquitoes will be a critical determinant of success. We previously described a transgenic strain of Anopheles gambiae expressing the Vida3 peptide into the female midgut following a blood-meal, which exhibited significant protection against malaria parasites. Here, we investigated the fitness of this strain relative to non-transgenic controls through comparisons of various life history traits. Experiments were designed, as far as possible, to equalize genetic backgrounds and heterogeneity such that fitness comparisons focussed on the presence and expression of the transgene cassette. We also employed reciprocal crosses to identify any fitness disturbance associated with inheritance of the transgene from either the male or female parent. We found no evidence that the presence or expression of the effector transgene or associated fluorescence markers caused any significant fitness cost in relation to larval mortality, pupal sex ratio, fecundity, hatch rate or longevity of blood-fed females. In fact, fecundity was increased in transgenic strains. We did, however, observe some fitness disturbances associated with the route of inheritance of the transgene. Maternal inheritance delayed male pupation whilst paternal inheritance increased adult longevity for both males and unfed females. Overall, in comparison to controls, there was no evidence of significant fitness costs associated with the presence or expression of transgenes in this strain.
    PLoS ONE 02/2014; 9(2):e88625. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0088625 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    • "In natural populations males await females in male-dominated swarms thereby creating conditions in which male competition for females is high and reproductive success may largely be driven by female choice [57]. This type of conditions, which bear analogies with leks, typically leads to very skewed distributions of male reproductive success with males of higher phenotypic quality securing most copula [57,58]. The 50:50 sex ratio artificially created by combining distinct cohorts of freshly hatched female and male imagoes in small laboratory cages results in starkly different selection pressures on males. "
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    ABSTRACT: Effective mating between laboratory-reared males and wild females is paramount to the success of vector control strategies aiming to decrease disease transmission via the release of sterile or genetically modified male mosquitoes. However mosquito colonization and laboratory maintenance have the potential to negatively affect male genotypic and phenotypic quality through inbreeding and selection, which in turn can decrease male mating competitiveness in the field. To date, very little is known about the impact of those evolutionary forces on the reproductive biology of mosquito colonies and how they ultimately affect male reproductive fitness. Here several male reproductive physiological traits likely to be affected by inbreeding and selection following colonization and laboratory rearing were examined. Sperm length, and accessory gland and testes size were compared in male progeny from field-collected females and laboratory strains of Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto colonized from one to over 25 years ago. These traits were also compared in the parental and sequentially derived, genetically modified strains produced using a two-phase genetic transformation system. Finally, genetic crosses were performed between strains in order to distinguish the effects of inbreeding and selection on reproductive traits. Sperm length was found to steadily decrease with the age of mosquito colonies but was recovered in refreshed strains and crosses between inbred strains therefore incriminating inbreeding costs. In contrast, testes size progressively increased with colony age, whilst accessory gland size quickly decreased in males from colonies of all ages. The lack of heterosis in response to crossing and strain refreshing in the latter two reproductive traits suggests selection for insectary conditions. These results show that inbreeding and selection differentially affect reproductive traits in laboratory strains overtime and that heterotic 'supermales' could be used to rescue some male reproductive characteristics. Further experiments are needed to establish the exact relationship between sperm length, accessory gland and testes size, and male reproductive success in the laboratory and field settings.
    Malaria Journal 01/2014; 13(1):19. DOI:10.1186/1475-2875-13-19 · 3.11 Impact Factor
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    • "With this fact in mind, significant effort has been dedicated to understanding the compensating benefits that grouping behavior provides [9]. Many such benefits of grouping behavior have been proposed, for example, swarming may improve mating success [10] [11], increase foraging efficiency [12], or enable the group to solve problems that would be impossible to solve individually [1]. Furthermore , swarming behaviors are hypothesized to protect group members from predators in several ways. "
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    ABSTRACT: Animal grouping behaviors have been widely studied due to their implications for understanding social intelligence, collective cognition, and potential applications in engineering, artificial intelligence, and robotics. An important biological aspect of these studies is discerning which selection pressures favor the evolution of grouping behavior. In the past decade, researchers have begun using evolutionary computation to study the evolutionary effects of these selection pressures in predator-prey models. The selfish herd hypothesis states that concentrated groups arise because prey selfishly attempt to place their conspecifics between themselves and the predator, thus causing an endless cycle of movement toward the center of the group. Using an evolutionary model of a predator-prey system, we show that how predators attack is critical to the evolution of the selfish herd. Following this discovery, we show that density-dependent predation provides an abstraction of Hamilton's original formulation of "domains of danger." Finally, we verify that density-dependent predation provides a sufficient selective advantage for prey to evolve the selfish herd in response to predation by coevolving predators. Thus, our work corroborates Hamilton's selfish herd hypothesis in a digital evolutionary model, refines the assumptions of the selfish herd hypothesis, and generalizes the domain of danger concept to density-dependent predation.
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