Biological cost of tolerance to heavy metals in the mosquito Anopheles gambiae

P. O. Mireji, J. Keating, A. Hassanali, C. M. Mbogo, M. N. Muturi, J. I. Githure, J. C. Beier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The global rate of heavy metal pollution is rapidly increasing in various habitats. Anopheles malaria vector species (Diptera: Culicidae) appear to tolerate many aquatic habitats with metal pollutants, despite their normal proclivity for 'clean' water (i.e. low levels of organic matter). Investigations were conducted to establish whether there are biological costs for tolerance to heavy metals in Anopheles gambiae Giles sensu stricto and to assess the potential impact of heavy metal pollution on mosquito ecology. Anopheles gambiae s.s. were selected for cadmium, copper or lead tolerance through chronic exposure of immature stages to solutions of the metals for three successive generations. Biological costs were assessed in the fourth generation by horizontal life table analysis. Tolerance in larvae to cadmium (as cadmium chloride, CdCl2), copper [as copper II nitrate hydrate, Cu(NO3)2 2.5 H2O] and lead [as lead II nitrate, Pb(NO3)2], monitored by changes in LC50 concentrations of the metals, changed from 6.07 μg/L, 12.42 μg/L and 493.32 μg/L to 4.45 μg/L, 25.02 μg/L and 516.69 μg/L, respectively, after three generations of exposure. The metal-selected strains had a significantly lower magnitude of egg viability, larval and pupal survivorship, adult emergence, fecundity and net reproductive rate than the control strain. The population doubling times were significantly longer and the instantaneous birth rates lower in most metal-selected strains relative to the control strain. Our results suggest that although An. gambiae s.s. displays the potential to develop tolerance to heavy metals, particularly copper, this may occur at a significant biological cost, which can adversely affect its ecological fitness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-107
Number of pages7
JournalMedical and Veterinary Entomology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2010


  • Anopheles gambiae
  • Biological cost
  • Cadmium
  • Copper
  • Heavy metals
  • Lead
  • tolerance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science
  • veterinary(all)
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Parasitology


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