The Interactive Effects of Photoperiod and Future Climate Change May Have Negative Consequences For a Wide-Spread Invasive Insect

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Biological Sciences


Increasing global temperatures may affect many ectotherms, including insects, although increasing temperatures are thought to benefit future populations through effects on adult size, fecundity, or populations. However, the way that temperature may interact with photoperiod is not well understood. We study this problem using the Asian tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus, an important worldwide invasive whose future spread is thought to be affected by changes in climate. We investigated how mass at maturity varied with temperature (21°C, 25°C) across short and long photoperiods, using laboratory populations from the extreme ends of this species’ current US range (Florida, New Jersey). These values were used to parametrize a model to predict optimal mass based on development times; the results of a second laboratory experiment under the same treatments were compared to model predictions. Warmer conditions shortened development times in females from all locations leading to either higher or lower mass depending on the photoperiod. We then used published mass–fecundity relationships to determine the consequences of mass on fecundity under our conditions. Under the majority of scenarios warming decreased predicted fecundity under long photoperiods, but proved beneficial under short photoperiods because the costs of fast development were offset by increased survival in the face of late‐season freezing risk. However, fecundity was always low under short photoperiods, so the marginal benefit of warming appears negligible given its cost under long photoperiods when the majority of reproduction occurs. Thus, with northern range expansion, where colder weather currently limits this species, detrimental effects of warming on fecundity are likely, similar to those identified for mass. Unlike previous work that has shown benefits of a warming planet to insects like Aedes albopictus, our work predicts lower performance under warming conditions in summer across the current range, a prediction with implications for range expansion, disease dynamics and populations.

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