Background: Temperature is a critical determinant of the development of malaria parasites in mosquitoes, and hence the geographic distribution of malaria risk, but little is known about the thermal preferences of Anopheles. A number of other insects modify their thermal behaviour in response to infection. These alterations can be beneficial for the insect or for the infectious agent. Given current interest in developing fungal biopesticides for control of mosquitoes, Anopheles stephensi were examined to test whether mosquitoes showed thermally-mediated behaviour in response to infection with fungal entomopathogens and the rodent malaria, Plasmodium yoelii.
Methods: Over two experiments, groups of An. stephensi were infected with one of three entomopathogenic fungi, and/or P. yoelii. Infected and uninfected mosquitoes were released on to a thermal gradient (14 - 38 degrees C) for "snapshot" assessments of thermal preference during the first five days post-infection. Mosquito survival was monitored for eight days and, where appropriate, oocyst prevalence and intensity was assessed.
Results and conclusion: Both infected and uninfected An. stephensi showed a non-random distribution on the gradient, indicating some capacity to behaviourally thermoregulate. However, chosen resting temperatures were not altered by any of the infections. There is thus no evidence that thermally-mediated behaviours play a role in determining malaria prevalence or that they will influence the performance of fungal biopesticides against adult Anopheles.