Predator-prey interactions can have a significant impact on the abundance and distribution of species, but the outcome of these interactions is often context-dependent. In small freshwater habitats, predacious copepods are potential biological control agents for mosquito larvae. Through laboratory experiments, we tested if the presence of a non-mosquito prey (neonate Daphnia pulex) influenced prey selection of the predaceous copepod (Acanthocyclops vernalis) on 1st instar Aedes mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus). Copepods were starved for 12 h prior to being exposed to the two prey types (larval mosquitoes and Daphnia) at three densities: 25 mosquitoes:75 Daphnia, 50 mosquitoes:50 Daphnia, 75 mosquitoes:25 Daphnia. Single prey choice trials for each species as well as no-predator trials were also established for controls. Copepods were effective predators, with a single copepod consuming up to 37 1st instar mosquito larvae during the 24-h trials. The number of mosquitoes consumed increased with their relative density, but the proportion of mosquitoes consumed was highest when Aedes made up only 25% of the population. Results from our study show that in a simple predator/two-prey system, two species of larval mosquitoes (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus) are preferentially consumed over an alternative zooplankton by the copepod predator Acanthocyclops vernalis.
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Vol. 46 • No. 2