Interactions between the invasive Burmese python, Python bivittatus Kuhl, and the local mosquito community in Florida, USA
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The Burmese python, Python bivittatus Kuhl, is a well-established invasive species in the greater Everglades ecosystem of southern Florida, USA. Most research on its ecological impacts focuses on its role as a predator and its trophic interactions with native vertebrate species, particularly mammals. Beyond predation, there is little known about the ecological interactions between P. bivittatus and native faunal communities. It is likely that established populations of P. bivittatus in southern Florida serve as hosts for native mosquito communities. To test this concept, we used mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I DNA barcoding to determine the hosts of blood fed mosquitoes collected at a research facility in northern Florida where captive P. bivittatus and Argentine black and white tegu, Salvator merianae (Duméril and Bibron), are maintained in outdoor enclosures, accessible to local mosquitoes. We recovered python DNA from the blood meals of three species of Culex mosquitoes: Culex erraticus (Dyar and Knab), Culex quinquefasciatus Say, and Culex pilosus (Dyar and Knab). Culex erraticus conclusively (P = 0.001; Fisher's Exact Test) took more blood meals from P. bivittatus than from any other available host. While the majority of mosquito blood meals in our sample were derived from P. bivittatus, only one was derived from S. merianae. These results demonstrate that local mosquitoes will feed on invasive P. bivittatus, a recently introduced host. If these interactions also occur in southern Florida, P. bivittatus may be involved in the transmission networks of mosquito-vectored pathogens. Our results also illustrate the potential of detecting the presence of P. bivittatus in the field through screening mosquito blood meals for their DNA.
author list (cited authors)
Reeves, L. E., Krysko, K. L., Avery, M. L., Gillett-Kaufman, J. L., Kawahara, A. Y., Connelly, C. R., & Kaufman, P. E.