Larval habitats of the main malaria vectors in Belize are associated with three distinctly different aquatic environments: marshes with sparse macrophytes and cyanobacterial mats (Anopheles albimanus), tall dense macrophyte marshes (An. vestitipennis), and floating detritus assemblages within freshwater rivers (An. darlingi). We assessed species specific habitat suitability based upon nutrient characteristics using larval survival rates (SR) and wing lengths (WL) from floating habitat enclosures. Anopheles albimanus showed a high SR (81%) in all three habitats, while An. vestitipennis had a similarly high SR in its own habitat (82%) and An. darlingi's habitat (81%). Anopheles darlingi only showed high SR (85%) in its own habitat. Both An. vestitipennis and An. darlingi showed very low SR in the An. albimanus habitat. There were no significant WL differences among field-caught, laboratory-reared, and experimental populations of An. vestitipennis and An. albimanus, with the exception of An. vestitipennis experimental populations and An. vestitipennis field populations placed in the An. albimanus habitat. Habitat quality indicators, particulate organic carbon (POC), dissolved organic carbon (DOC), and particulate organic nitrogen (PON), were consistently higher in An. vestitipennis habitats than in the habitats of the other two species. Correspondingly, An. vestitipennis adults were larger when measured both as dry mass and from WL. There were no differences in dry mass, lipids, or protein content among the same species reared at different locations. We compared SR and WL among mosquitoes from shaded and unshaded containers to test whether the high mortality rates for An. vestitipennis and An. darlingi in the An. albimanus habitat were due to intense sun exposure. There were no significant differences among developmental times, survivorship, or adult size for shaded versus sun-exposed populations. This indicates that other factors such as larval toxins, predator avoidance, interspecific species competition, etc. may be responsible for the higher mortality rates in those species not adapted to this particular habitat.
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