The growth and development of Anopheles gambiae Giles larvae were studied in artificial habitats in western Kenya. Larvae responded to increasing densities by extending their development time and by emerging as smaller adults, although survival was not significantly affected. Addition of nutrients in the form of cow dung collected near the study site had no impact on larval growth and development. Regression analysis showed that female development time increased by 0.020 d and female dry mass decreased by 0.74 μg with each additional larva. By fitting the data to the pupation window model, the estimated minimum dry mass to achieve pupation was 0.130 mg and the estimated minimum time to pupation was 5 d. The most likely food source for An. gambiae larvae was algal growth, which was significantly reduced by the presence of larvae. Bacterial densities were not significantly affected by the presence of larvae although total bacteria counts were lower at the higher densities indicating they may provide a secondary food source when algal resources are depleted. Similarly, the levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in the habitats were not significantly affected by the presence of larvae although there was evidence of decreasing nitrogen levels occurring with increasing larval densities suggesting that nitrogen may be a limiting resource in the larval environment. The data indicate that competition within the larval environment may indirectly regulate An. gambiae populations by reducing adult body size, which may in turn reduce adult survivorship and fecundity. The potential impact of density-dependent interactions among An. gambiae larvae on the transmission of Plasmodium falciparum is discussed.
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Vol. 39 • No. 1