Importance of algal biomass to growth and development of Anopheles gambiae larvae

Michael G. Kaufman*, Elizabeth Wanja, Shahnaz Maknojia, M. Nabie Bayoh, John M. Vulule, Edward D. Walker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


We conducted experiments to investigate the importance of algal food resources for larval growth and adult emergence of Anopheles gambiae Giles s.s. in simulated larval habitats in Kenya, and in greenhouse and laboratory microcosms in the United States. In the first experiment, we used shading to reduce algal biomass, and because algal production and larval development might be a function of underlying soil nutrients, we crossed sun-shade treatments with soils of two distinct types collected near larval habitats. Shading reduced pupation rates and total adult biomass of An. gambiae by ≈50%. Soil type had no significant effect on mosquito production, but it did significantly affect concentrations of phosphorus and chlorophyll a in the surface microlayer. In a subsequent experiment conducted in the greenhouse to reduce temperature differences found between the shaded and sunlit treatments, <1% of larvae in the shaded treatments reached the pupal stage. There was a marked reduction of chlorophyll a levels as a function of shading and larval density. In a third experiment, larvae receiving material harvested from sunlit surface microlayers performed as well as those receiving liver powder, whereas those receiving surface microlayer from shaded habitats suffered >90% mortality and failed to pupate. In a fourth experiment, glucose was added to shaded microcosms to stimulate bacterial activity in the absence of algae. Bacterial growth rates were 2 to 3 times higher, and larval development was enhanced in glucose-amended treatments. However, pupation rates and adult weights in glucose-amended shaded microcosms were still poor compared with those in nonamended sunlit microcosms. Overall, these results demonstrate the importance of algal biomass in the surface microlayers of larval habitats to development and adult production of An. gambiae.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)669-676
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Medical Entomology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Anopheles gambiae larvae
  • Feeding ecology
  • Surface layer algae


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