Warmer temperatures reduce the vectorial capacity of malaria mosquitoes

Krijn P. Paaijmans, Simon Blanford, Brian H.K. Chan, Matthew B. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


The development rate of parasites and pathogens within vectors typically increases with temperature. Accordingly, transmission intensity is generally assumed to be higher under warmer conditions. However, development is only one component of parasite/pathogen life history and there has been little research exploring the temperature sensitivity of other traits that contribute to transmission intensity. Here, using a rodent malaria, we show that vector competence (the maximum proportion of infectious mosquitoes, which implicitly includes parasite survival across the incubation period) tails off at higher temperatures, even though parasite development rate increases. We also show that the standard measure of the parasite incubation period (i.e. time until the first mosquitoes within a cohort become infectious following an infected blood-meal) is incomplete because parasite development follows a cumulative distribution, which itself varies with temperature. Including these effects in a simple model dramatically alters estimates of transmission intensity and reduces the optimum temperature for transmission. These results highlight the need to understand the interactive effects of environmental temperature on multiple host-disease life-history traits and challenge the assumptions of many current disease models that ignore this complexity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)465-468
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 23 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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