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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Malaria mosquitoes acquire and allocate cattle urine to enhance life history traits

Dawit, Mengistu; Hill, Sharon R.; Birgersson, Goran; Tekie, Habte; Ignell, Rickard


Background: Nutrient acquisition and allocation integrate foraging and life-history traits in insects. To compensate for the lack of a particular nutrient at different life stages, insects may acquire these through supplementary feeding, for example, on vertebrate secretions, in a process known as puddling. The mosquito Anopheles arabiensis emerges undernourished, and as such, requires nutrients for both metabolism and reproduction. The purpose of this study was to assess whether An. arabiensis engage in puddling on cattle urine to obtain nutrients to improve life history traits.Methods: To determine whether An. arabiensis are attracted to the odour of fresh, 24 h, 72 h and 168 h aged cattle urine, host-seeking and blood-fed (48 h post-blood meal) females were assayed in a Y-tube olfactometer, and gravid females assessed in an oviposition assay. Combined chemical and electrophysiological analyses were subsequently used to identify the bioactive compounds in all four age classes of cattle urine. Synthetic blends of bioactive compounds were evaluated in both Y-tube and field assays. To investigate the cattle urine, and its main nitrogenous compound, urea, as a potential supplementary diet for malaria vectors, feeding parameters and life history traits were measured. The proportion of female mosquitoes and the amount of cattle urine and urea imbibed, were assessed. Following feeding, females were evaluated for survival, tethered flight and reproduction.Results: Host-seeking and blood-fed An. arabiensis were attracted to the natural and synthetic odour of fresh and aged cattle urine in both laboratory and field studies. Gravid females were indifferent in their response to cattle urine presence at oviposition sites. Host-seeking and blood-fed females actively imbibed cattle urine and urea, and allocated these resources according to life history trade-offs to flight, survival or reproduction, as a function of physiological state.Conclusions: Anopheles arabiensis acquire and allocate cattle urine to improve life history traits. Supplementary feeding on cattle urine affects vectorial capacity directly by increasing daily survival and vector density, as well as indirectly by altering flight activity, and thus should be considered in future models.

Published in

Malaria Journal
2022, Volume: 21, article number: 180
Publisher: BMC