Dengue viruses, primarily transmitted by the mosquito Aedes aegypti (L.), affect an estimated 50–100 million people yearly. Traditional approaches to control mosquito population numbers, such as the use of pesticides, have had only limited success. Atypical mosquito behavior may be one reason why current vector control efforts have been less efficacious than expected. In Puerto Rico, for example, adult Ae. aegypti have been observed emerging from septic tanks. Interestingly, adults emerging from septic tanks are larger on average than adults collected from surface containers. To determine whether adults colonizing septic tanks constitute a separate Ae. aegypti population, we used 12 previously validated microsatellite loci to examine adult mosquitoes collected from both septic tanks and surface containers, but found no evidence to suggest genetic differentiation. Size differences between septic tank and surface mosquitoes were reduced when nutrient levels were held constant across experimental groups. Despite the absence of evidence suggesting a genetic difference between experimental groups in this study, Ae. aegypti emerging from septic tanks may still represent a more dangerous phenotype and should be given special consideration when developing vector control programs and designing public health interventions in the future.
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Vol. 48 • No. 6