Small females prefer small males: size assortative mating in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.
Background: With Aedes aegypti mosquitoes now being released in field programmes aimed at disease suppression, there is interest in identifying factors influencing the mating and invasion success of released mosquitoes. One factor that can increase release success is size: released males may benefit competitively from being larger than their field counterparts. However, there could be a risk in releasing only large males if small field females avoid these males and instead prefer small males. Here we investigate this risk by evaluating mating success for mosquitoes differing in size. Results: We measured mating success indirectly by coupling size with Wolbachia-infected or uninfected mosquitoes and scoring cytoplasmic incompatibility. Large females showed no evidence of a mating preference, whereas small males were relatively more successful than large males when mating with small females, exhibiting an advantage of around 20-25%. Conclusions: Because field females typically encompass a wide range of sizes while laboratory reared (and released) males typically fall into a narrow size range of large mosquitoes, these patterns can influence the success of release programmes which rely on cytoplasmic incompatibility to suppress populations and initiate replacement invasions. Releases could include some small males generated under low food or crowded conditions to counter this issue, although this would need to be weighed against issues associated with costs of producing males of various size classes.