Ecological limitations on aquatic mosquito predator colonization in the urban environment

John Carlson, Joseph Keating, Charles M. Mbogo, Samuel Kahindi, John C. Beier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Urban malaria cases are becoming common in Africa as more people move into cities and industrialization proceeds. While many species of Anopheles mosquitoes vector malaria in rural areas, only a few are found within cities. The success of anthropophilic species in cities, such as members of the An. gambiae complex, may be explained by limitations on colonization by predator species in urban environments. Habitats that are temporal or structurally simple have lower predator survivorship in a variety of ecosystems, but these have not been investigated previously in an urban area. Areas within and around the Kenyan coastal town of Malindi were previously sampled for the presence of standing water using a geographic sampling strategy with probability proportional to size sampling of planned well-drained, unplanned poorly-drained, planned poorly-drained, unplanned well-drained, and peri-urban locations. Standing aquatic habitats in these areas were reassessed. During monthly sampling, presence/absence of mosquitoes and predator taxa were noted, as were ecological habitat variables: structural complexity and presence of water. Lambda statistics were calculated to associate predator guilds, habitat types, location variables, and ecological variables. All predator guilds found in habitats were strongly associated with habitat type, as were the structural complexity and temporal nature of the habitats. Types of habitat were heterogeneously distributed throughout Malindi, with swimming pools as a common habitat type in planned urban areas and tire track pools a common habitat type in peri-urban areas of Malindi. Predator colonization of aquatic habitats in Malindi was strongly influenced by habitat type, and not associated with location characteristics. Ecological variables were affected by the type of habitats, which are co-associated with planning and drainage in Malindi. While habitat types are distributed heterogeneously within Malindi, habitats with low predation pressure are available for mosquito colonization in both urban and peri-urban areas. The temporal, peri-urban tire track pools and the structural simplicity of urban swimming pools may discourage predator colonization, thereby increasing the probability of malaria vectors in these areas of Malindi. Future studies should evaluate habitats for use in malaria surveillance and experimentally test the effects of structural complexity and temporal nature of urban habitats on the densities of mosquito larvae and their aquatic predators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-339
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Vector Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2004


  • Anopheles gambiae
  • Malindi
  • Predation
  • Urban

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science


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