Variation in temperature and food availability in larval habitats can influence the abundance, body size, and vector competence of the mosquito Aedes aegypti. Although increased temperature has energetic costs for growing larvae, how food resources influence the developmental response of this mosquito species to thermal conditions is unknown. We explored how rearing temperature and food affect allometric scaling between wing size and epidermal cell size in Ae. aegypti. Mosquitoes were reared at 22 and 28°C across a gradient of field-collected detritus designed to simulate commonly observed natural larval food resources. Overall, reduced temperature and increased food level increased wing size, but only temperature affected cell size. Females fed the least food had the longest time to maturation, and their increases in wing size induced by cold temperature were associated with larger, rather than more, cells. By contrast, males fed the most food had the shortest time to maturation, and their increases in wing size induced by cold temperature were associated with more, rather than larger, cells. Therefore, food levels can alter the underlying physiological mechanisms generating temperature-size patterns in mosquitoes, suggesting that the control of development is sensitive to the combination of nutrient and thermal conditions, rather than each independently. Conditions prolonging development time may favor increased cell division over growth. We suggest that understanding the effects of climate change on Ae. aegypti vectorial capacity requires an improved knowledge of how water temperature interacts with limited food resources and competition in aquatic container habitats.
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Vol. 48 • No. 5