The physicochemical and environmental factors affecting the distribution of Anopheles merus along the Kenyan coast

Parasit Vectors. 2015 Apr 11:8:221. doi: 10.1186/s13071-015-0819-0.


Background: Members of the Anopheles gambiae complex are the main transmitters of malaria. Anopheles merus is a member of the complex found along the Kenyan coast because it breeds in saline waters. An entomological study was conducted in Garithe Malindi District, to investigate the physicochemical and environmental factors affecting the distribution of An. merus.

Methods: Field and laboratory studies were used to investigate the breeding habitats of the subspecies. Mosquito larvae were sampled using standard dipping technique from small pockets of pools, ponds, hoof prints, road drain, wells and mangrove swamps found in Garithe. All 3(rd) and 4(th) instars of Anopheles larvae sampled were identified microscopically into species. A representative of Anopheles gambiae complex was then identified to specific sibling species using r-DNA PCR technique. The habitats were characterized based on temperature, conductivity, salinity, dissolved oxygen, total dissolved solids, pH, size, distance to nearest house, canopy coverage, surface debris, presence of algae, emergent plants, turbidity and habitat types.

Results: A total of 159 morphologically identified late stage instar Anopheles gambiae s.l larvae were selected for r-DNA analysis by PCR. Out of these, 60.4% (n = 96) were Anopheles merus, 8.8% (n = 14) were Anopheles arabiensis, 18.2% (n = 29) were Anopheles gambiae s.s and 12.6% (n = 20) were unknown. Using paired t-test (t (121) = -3.331, P = 0.001) a significantly high proportion of An. merus was observed in all habitats compared to An. arabiensis, and An. gambiae s. s. In habitat characterization, Pearson's correlation analysis test showed different parameters being associated with the occurrence of An. merus larvae in the different habitats sampled. Six out of the 55 correlation coefficients (10.9%) were statistically significant, suggesting non-random association between some pairs of variables. Those that had a significantly high positive correlation with An. merus included temperature, salinity, conductivity, total dissolved solids and algae.

Conclusions: Different physicochemical parameters and environmental parameters affect the occurrence of An. merus. In this study, higher temperatures accelerate the growth of the larvae and aids in growth of micro-organisms and algae which are food sources for the larvae. Saline waters favour the growth and development of An. merus larvae; they are also able to develop in a range of saline waters. Conductivity, total dissolved solids and canopy coverage are among the important factors influencing the development and abundance of An. merus larvae in their habitats. Habitat type also influences the abundance of An. merus larvae. They mainly prefer to breed in pools and ponds, but not swamps, hoof prints and wells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anopheles / classification
  • Anopheles / genetics
  • Anopheles / growth & development*
  • Chemical Phenomena*
  • DNA, Ribosomal / genetics
  • Ecosystem*
  • Entomology
  • Environment*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • DNA, Ribosomal