Spatial swarm segregation and reproductive isolation between the molecular forms of Anopheles gambiae

Proc Biol Sci. 2009 Dec 7;276(1676):4215-22. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.1167. Epub 2009 Sep 4.


Anopheles gambiae, the major malaria vector in Africa, can be divided into two subgroups based on genetic and ecological criteria. These two subgroups, termed the M and S molecular forms, are believed to be incipient species. Although they display differences in the ecological niches they occupy in the field, they are often sympatric and readily hybridize in the laboratory to produce viable and fertile offspring. Evidence for assortative mating in the field was recently reported, but the underlying mechanisms awaited discovery. We studied swarming behaviour of the molecular forms and investigated the role of swarm segregation in mediating assortative mating. Molecular identification of 1145 males collected from 68 swarms in Donéguébougou, Mali, over 2 years revealed a strict pattern of spatial segregation, resulting in almost exclusively monotypic swarms with respect to molecular form. We found evidence of clustering of swarms composed of individuals of a single molecular form within the village. Tethered M and S females were introduced into natural swarms of the M form to verify the existence of possible mate recognition operating within-swarm. Both M and S females were inseminated regardless of their form under these conditions, suggesting no within-mate recognition. We argue that our results provide evidence that swarm spatial segregation strongly contributes to reproductive isolation between the molecular forms in Mali. However this does not exclude the possibility of additional mate recognition operating across the range distribution of the forms. We discuss the importance of spatial segregation in the context of possible geographic variation in mechanisms of reproductive isolation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anopheles / classification
  • Anopheles / genetics
  • Anopheles / physiology*
  • Female
  • Genetic Speciation*
  • Male
  • Mali
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Seasons
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Species Specificity