The association between the phytoplankton,Rhopalosolenspecies (Chlorophyta; Chlorophyceae), andAnophelesgambiaesensu lato (Diptera: Culicidae) larval abundance in western Kenya

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Algae are important food resources of the larvae of the African malaria vectors, Anopheles gambiae Giles and Anopheles arabiensis Patton (Anopheles gambiae sensu lato), and other zooplankton, but empirical evidence remains meager about the agal flora in ephemeral water bodies. The animals present in natural aquatic habitats in western Kenya were sampled from July to November 2002 to study abiotic and biotic environmental factors determining A. gambiae sl larval abundance. The five highest concentrations of third and fourth instars and pupae (hereafter referred to as old-stage larvae) were sampled in conjunction with the unicellular epizoic green algae, Rhopalosolen species (Chlorophyta; Chlorophyceae). Canonical correspondence analysis revealed that the presence of Rhopalosolen species was the most important determinant of the animal assemblage. The density of old-stage A. gambiae sl larvae was positively correlated with the presence of Rhopalosolen species, but the density of first and second instars of A. gambiae sl was not. The water bodies with Rhopalosolen sp. yielded larger mosquitoes in spite of the higher density of larvae. We demonstrated that the productivity of water bodies in terms of the larvae of malaria vectors can differ in magnitude depending on the agal flora. We discuss phytoplankton as a regulator of mosquito larval populations.

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