Development and survival of Anopheles gambiae eggs in drying soil: influence of the rate of drying, egg age, and soil type

Shililu JI, Grueber WB, Mbogo CM, Githure JI, Riddiford LM, Beier JC
J Am Mosq Control Assoc. 2004;20

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Little is known about the contribution made by the egg stage of African malaria vectors to the rapid rise in adult populations following the onset of seasonal rains. To examine this issue, we evaluated the viability of Anopheles gambiae eggs in drying soil in the laboratory. Survival data were collected from field-caught mosquitoes kept in sandy loam soil and laboratory-reared colonies kept in sandy loam soil and black cotton soil. Under high, medium, and low soil-moisture regimes, egg viability declined sharply with increased duration of drying. Eggs remained viable in drying sandy loam soil for 1, 5, and 10 days, but not after 15 or 20 days. The most dramatic decline in hatching success occurred between drying days 1 (78-83% hatch) and 5 (20-23% hatch). In contrast, eggs reared in high-moisture black cotton soil remained viable for up to 15 days. Furthermore, after 5 drying days, high-, medium-, and low-moisture soils averaged 59, 47, and 31% hatching success, respectively. We recovered unhatched eggs from sandy loam soils to examine the developmental status of the embryos. A majority of the unhatched eggs that were recovered from days 15 and 20 in sandy loam soils contained fully developed late-stage embryos. Thus, unhatched eggs completed embryonic development but probably died before receiving an appropriate hatching stimulus. Our results suggest that the absolute moisture content of the soil does not alone determine hatching success of anopheline eggs. Rather, soil moisture, together with the rate of drying, physiological factors associated with the age of the egg, and the type of soil in which the egg rests likely influence survival.