Culiseta melanura

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Geographic Range

Culiseta melanura has a wide distribution ranging from southern Quebec, Canada all the way to southern Florida, and spanning the United States from the eastern border of the Great Plains to the Atlantic coast. These mosquitoes have also been found in the Caribbean. (Horsfall, 1955; Mahmood and Crans, 1998a)

Habitat

Culiseta melanura are found in a wide variety of places, from swampy wetlands to pools of water inside old tires. They typically reproduce in underground crypts and rotting trees. They are also fond of swampy acidic water with pH at or near 5.0. (Burbutis and Lake, 1956; Mahmood and Crans, 1998a; Mahmood and Crans, 1998b)

Physical Description

Culiseta melanura have white, elongate eggs that darken and harden over the hours following oviposition. Larvae are divided into three segments: the head, the thorax and the abdomen. The abdomen itself is divided into ten segments, the last three of which form the siphon used for breathing. The aquatic pupa has a fused head and thorax, this forming the cephalothorax. C. melanura as adults have a body design that is also separated into three regions. The head bears the antennae, eyes, palpi and proboscis.

Males and females are dimorphic. Their differences reside in their antennae and palpi. Males have longer proboscises and antennae covered with more hair than females. (Miller and Nasci, 1996)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes shaped differently

Development

The time it takes for the egg to hatch, larvae to mature, and the adult to eclose from the pupa, is very dependent upon the ambient temperature. Both larvae and pupae are aquatic, but pupae do not feed. They are found respiring at the water surface of their habitats. When the mosquito is ready to emerge from the pupa, the dorsal skin on the cephalothorax splits, allowing the adult to exit. (Burbutis and Lake, 1956; Mahmood and Crans, 1998a; Mahmood and Crans, 1998b; Service, 2000)

Reproduction

Culiseta melanura have a unique life cycle for a mosquito; the mosquito over winters as a larva as opposed to an adult. Eggs are laid singly onto the surface of water in crypts, which are stagnant pools of water. Eggs cannot survive without water, or they will dry out. Females can oviposit between 30 and 300 eggs at one time. The time it takes for the egg to hatch and undergo pupation is dependent upon the temperature of the environment. Adults disperse and reproduce within a 100 km radius of the site where they emerged. (Burbutis and Lake, 1956; Mahmood and Crans, 1998a; Mahmood and Crans, 1998b; Service, 2000)

  • Average eggs per season
    30 -300

Females lay eggs in a place suitable for larval development, after which there is no further parental involvement.

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning

Lifespan/Longevity

Adults live from several days to several months depending on numerous abiotic conditions.

Behavior

Culiseta melanura is a solitary species. These mosquitoes do not travel in swarms although they may oviposite their eggs in the same crypt or water container. Females are intermittent parasites of birds. (Busvine, 1993)

Food Habits

Culiseta melanura adult males feed on the nectar from flowers, as the maxillae and mandibles are not developed for piercing skin, as are the mouthparts of females. The female C. melanura is an intermittent parasite of birds, finding a host long enough for one blood meal and then leaving. This species of mosquito is rarely attracted to mammals, and feeds almost exclusively on birds. Females locate hosts and use their proboscis to pierce the epidermis of the host in order to obtain a blood meal. After feeding is complete, the female will leave the host and locate a suitable place to deposit her eggs. Larvae live in the confines of hidden crypts (small pools of acidic, stagnant water) and typically filter feed on decaying plant matter. (Burgess, 1990; Service, 2000)

  • Animal Foods
  • blood

Predation

Mosquito larvae are an important food source for a variety of aquatic organisms including fish and other insect larvae. Fish, insects, spiders, bats, frogs, and birds also prey upon the adults. (Burbutis and Lake, 1956; Mahmood and Crans, 1998b)

  • Known Predators
    • Bats, Birds, Spiders, Insects, Frogs, Fish

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

There is no obvious economic benefit derived from this species.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Culiseta melanura is an important vector of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). The reservoir for this virus is wild birds, the most important of which is the ringed pheasant within the United States. Culiseta melanura is the primary enzootic vector of EEE and birds serve as amplification hosts. Other mosquitoes serve in the transmission of EEE to humans, but without C. melanura, human infection would be largely decreased (Busvine, 1993; Mahmood and Crans, 1998a; Mahmood and Crans, 1998b)

Conservation Status

This species is in no danger of extinction.

Contributors

Sara Diamond (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Jacob Nelson (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Barry OConnor (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

bog

a wetland area rich in accumulated plant material and with acidic soils surrounding a body of open water. Bogs have a flora dominated by sedges, heaths, and sphagnum.

brackish water

areas with salty water, usually in coastal marshes and estuaries.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

causes disease in humans

an animal which directly causes disease in humans. For example, diseases caused by infection of filarial nematodes (elephantiasis and river blindness).

causes or carries domestic animal disease

either directly causes, or indirectly transmits, a disease to a domestic animal

crepuscular

active at dawn and dusk

detritus

particles of organic material from dead and decomposing organisms. Detritus is the result of the activity of decomposers (organisms that decompose organic material).

ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

freshwater

mainly lives in water that is not salty.

heterothermic

having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

marsh

marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.

metamorphosis

A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

parasite

an organism that obtains nutrients from other organisms in a harmful way that doesn't cause immediate death

riparian

Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

sanguivore

an animal that mainly eats blood

semelparous

offspring are all produced in a single group (litter, clutch, etc.), after which the parent usually dies. Semelparous organisms often only live through a single season/year (or other periodic change in conditions) but may live for many seasons. In both cases reproduction occurs as a single investment of energy in offspring, with no future chance for investment in reproduction.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

solitary

lives alone

suburban

living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.

swamp

a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

urban

living in cities and large towns, landscapes dominated by human structures and activity.

References

Burbutis, P., R. Lake. 1956. The Biology of Culiseta melanura (Coq.) in New Jersey. Proc. N. J. Mosq. Exterm. Assoc., 43: 155-161.

Burgess, N. 1990. Public Health Pests. NY: Chapman and Hall.

Busvine, J. 1993. Disease Transmission by Insects. NY: Springer-Verlag.

Horsfall, W. 1955. Mosquitoes: Their Bionomics and Relation to Disease. NY: The Ronald Press Company.

Mahmood, F., W. Crans. 1998. Ovarian Developement and Parity Determination in Culiseta melanura. J. Med. Entomol., 35(6): 980-988.

Mahmood, F., W. Crans. 1998. Effect of temperature on the development of Culiseta melanura (Diptera: Culicidae) and its impact on the amplification of Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus in birds. J. Med. Entomol, 35(6): 1007-1012.

Miller, B., R. Nasci. 1996. Culicine Mosquitoes and the Agent They Transmit. Pp. 85-97 in B Beaty, W Marquardt, eds. The Biology of Disease Vectors. Colorado: University Press of Colorado.

Service, M. 2000. Medical Entomology for Students. 2nd ed.. NY: Cambridge University Press.