It’s a bird, a plane; no it’s… an invasive mosquito? Defined by Steven A. Juilano and L. Philip Lounibos “invasive” species are “introduced species that have increased and spread, creating the potential for impacts on native species and ecosystems, or human activities” (558). With over 3000 species of mosquitoes, you may ask yourself: Why did certain species establish themselves as invasive? What does it take to become invasive? and What will the introduction of new invasive species have on me? Reviewing the qualities of an invasive mosquito and the biotic and abiotic characteristics that enable “non-native” mosquitoes to transition; discussing the effects of ecological processes and the subsequent formation of invasive species; and lastly evaluating the role mosquitoes play in human and animal health; Juilano and Lounibos produce a succinct analysis of the invasive mosquito and its environment.
In their article, “Ecology of Invasive Mosquitoes: Effects on Resident Species and in Human Health” Juilano and Lounibos attest the transition of “non-native”, “species that have neither spread widely nor had important impact” (Juilano 558), to invasive species to such ecological processes as interspecific competition, predation, and parasitism.
“Everything you can do I can do better, I can do everything better than you,” so goes the biotic interspecific competition of established “non-native” mosquitoes. From a lack of male libido in the A. aegypti mosquito, which resulted in its displacement by the more sexually active A. albopictus mosquito, to a “primogenitorial” approach to area claims, the quest for invasive status proves to be a highly competitive one. The presence of predators and parasites act as natural combatants to invasive species. However, the A. albopictus used paraisitsm to established itself as an invasive species. Like the child who gets everyone sick but never catches anybody’s cold, the albopictus mosquito infected its rival species with ascogregarina, but proved immune to its rival’s parasite. Additionally, though the invading specie appears more vulnerable to predation, it is also the superior competitor. Furthermore, a balance between “between competitive ability and vulnerability to predation may affect invasion success” (Juliano 566).
All this said, any fighter knows the venue of the fight can be just as significant as the competitor himself; therefore, the effects of competition can vary depending on the environment in which the reaction occurs. Steven A. Juilano and L. Philip Lounibos emphasize this thesis with their discussion of the abiotic environmental effects on the mosquito and resource depletion. Climate limitation in particular is a paramount factor in a mosquito’s journey towards invasive status. The article remark, “climate impacts life cycle stages that are not involved in competition, and these impacts can determine invasion success, effects of invaders and community composition following invasion” (Juilano 569).
Lastly, the article touches upon the affect invasive and established non-nativemosquitoes have on human and animal health. For example, the yellow fever outbreak in the 16-17th centuries was a result of “simultaneous introduction of a novel vector and novel pathogen” (Juilano 569). From Africa, yellow fever spread due to the slave trade, as both the disease and the African mosquitoes that transmitted the virus were introduced to the environment, catastrophe ensued. In Brazil, on the other hand, the introduction of a new species of mosquito caused a malaria epidemic. Yet, the “independent introductions of a novel vector and a novel pathogen” are the most popular origins of public health outbreaks, and caused the West Nile Virus panic in North America.
So, the next time you go to smash a mosquito think twice. Though bothersome, your residential mosquito is nothing compared to its invasive cousin.
Juilano, Steven A. and L. Phillip Lounibos. “Ecology of Invasive Mosquitoes: Effects on Resident Species and in Human Health.” Ecology Letters. 8 (2005): 558-574. Web.