An impressive capacity for cold tolerance plasticity protects against ionoregulatory collapse in the disease vector Aedes aegypti [RESEARCH ARTICLE]

Amanda Jass, Gil Y. Yerushalmi, Hannah E. Davis, Andrew Donini, and Heath A. MacMillan

The mosquito Aedes aegypti is largely confined to tropical and subtropical regions, but its range has recently been spreading to colder climates. As insect biogeography is tied to environmental temperature, understanding the limits of A. aegypti thermal tolerance and their capacity for phenotypic plasticity is important in predicting the spread of this species. In this study, we report on the chill coma onset (CCO) and recovery time (CCRT), as well as low-temperature survival phenotypes of larvae and adults of A. aegypti that developed or were acclimated to 15°C (cold) or 25°C (warm). Cold acclimation did not affect CCO temperatures of larvae but substantially reduced CCO in adults. Temperature and the duration of exposure both affected CCRT, and cold acclimation strongly mitigated these effects and increased rates of survival following prolonged chilling. Female adults were far less likely to take a blood meal when cold acclimated, and exposing females to blood (without feeding) attenuated some of the beneficial effects of cold acclimation on CCRT. Lastly, larvae suffered from haemolymph hyperkalaemia when chilled, but cold acclimation attenuated the imbalance. Our results demonstrate that A. aegypti larvae and adults have the capacity to acclimate to low temperatures, and do so at least in part by better maintaining ion balance in the cold. This ability for cold acclimation may facilitate the spread of this species to higher latitudes, particularly in an era of climate change.

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