Laboratory studies were carried out to investigate the role of larval habitatderived microorganisms in the production of semiochemicals for oviposition site selection by Anopheles gambiae Giles sensu stricto mosquitoes. Dual-choice bioassays with gravid females were conducted in standard mosquito cages. Field-collected or laboratory-reared mosquitoes, individually or in groups, were offered a choice between unmodified (water or soil from a natural breeding site) or modified substrates (filtered water, autoclaved soil or sterile media to which bacterial suspensions had been added). Egg counts were used to assess oviposition preferences.Mosquitoes preferred to oviposit on unmodified substrates from natural larval habitats containing live microorganisms rather than on sterilized ones. Variable responses were observed when sterile substrates were inoculated with bacteria isolated from water and soil from natural habitats.We conclude that microbial populations in breeding sites produce volatiles that serve as semiochemicals for gravid An. gambiae. These signals, in conjunction with other (non-olfactory) chemical and physical cues, may be used by the female to assess the suitability of potential larval habitats in order to maximize the fitness of her offspring.
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