"Dengue is epidemic in northern and southeastern Brazil right now," Lounibos said. "We're trying to stop it. Competition between the Asian tiger mosquito and the yellow fever mosquito, another invasive species that transmits dengue, may play a role in the crisis."
Alto said the study compares reproduction of Asian tiger mosquitoes housed at 79, 75 or 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Mosquitoes kept at 79 degrees reproduced fastest, while those at 72 degrees reproduced slowest.
"The difference between the low and high temperatures -- 7 degrees -- matches some estimates of how much global temperatures will increase in the next 100 years," he said.
The study shows that higher temperatures, when considered alone, would probably allow the mosquito to spread farther north and possibly survive year-round in areas where winter freezes now kill it off, he said.
Steven Juliano, an Illinois State University biological sciences professor and co-author of the study, said global warming also is predicted to affect rainfall and humidity, so the study does not make definite predictions about the mosquito's possible spread. Still, he said, it provides some valuable insight.
"Insect population dynamics are affected by many variables," Juliano said. "But this study helps us highlight what we need to know to plan for the future."
Juliano and Alto are conducting follow-up research at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach as part of a project concerning invasion biology of the Asian tiger mosquito. Juliano said the project is funded by the National Institutes of Health and involves researchers from UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Illinois State University, Yale University and Brazil's ministry of health.