Infections of Wolbachia may destabilize mosquito population dynamics

Arndt Telschow, Florian Grziwotz, Philip Crain, Takeshi Miki, James W. Mains, George Sugihara, Stephen L. Dobson, Chih hao Hsieh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Recent efforts in controlling mosquito-borne diseases focus on biocontrol strategies that incapacitate pathogens inside mosquitoes by altering the mosquito's microbiome. A case in point is the introduction of Wolbachia into natural mosquito populations in order to eliminate Dengue virus. However, whether this strategy can successfully control vector-borne diseases is debated; particularly, how artificial infection affects population dynamics of hosts remains unclear. Here, we show that natural Wolbachia infections are associated with unstable mosquito population dynamics by contrasting Wolbachia-infected versus uninfected cage populations of the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus). By analyzing weekly data of adult mosquito abundances, we found that the variability of the infected populations is significantly higher than that of the uninfected. The elevated population variability is explained by increased instability in dynamics, as quantified by system nonlinearity (i.e., state-dependence). In addition, predictability of infected populations is substantially lower. A mathematical model analysis suggests that Wolbachia may alter mosquito population dynamics by modifying larval competition of hosts. These results encourage examination for effects of artificial Wolbachia establishment on mosquito populations, because an enhancement of population variability with reduced predictability could pose challenges in management. Our findings have implications for application of microbiome alterations in biocontrol programs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-105
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
StatePublished - Sep 7 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd


  • Aedes albopictus
  • Population stability
  • S-map
  • Time series analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Applied Mathematics


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