A predator from East Africa that chooses malaria vectors as preferred prey
Background. All vectors of human malaria, a disease responsible for more than one million deaths per year, are female mosquitoes from the genus Anopheles. Evarcha culicivora is an East African jumping spider (Salticidae) that feeds indirectly on vertebrate blood by selecting blood-carrying female mosquitoes as preferred prey. Methodology/Principal Findings. By testing with motionless lures made from mounting dead insects in lifelike posture on cork discs, we show that E. culicivora selects Anopheles mosquitoes in preference to other mosquitoes and that this predator can identify Anopheles by static appearance alone. Tests using active (grooming) virtual mosquitoes rendered in 3-D animation show that Anopheles’ characteristic resting posture is an important prey-choice cue for E. culicivora. Expression of the spider’s preference for Anopheles varies with the spider’s size, varies with its prior feeding condition and is independent of the spider gaining a blood meal. Conclusions/Significance. This is the first experimental study to show that a predator of any type actively chooses Anopheles as preferred prey, suggesting that specialized predators having a role in the biological control of disease vectors is a realistic possibility.