Chromosomal differentiation and adaptation to human environments in the Anopheles gambiae complex

Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 1979;73(5):483-97. doi: 10.1016/0035-9203(79)90036-1.


Speciation in the Anopheles gambiae complex is reviewed and discussed with emphasis on the patterns of chromosomal differentiation, particularly at the intraspecific level. The significance of inversion polymorphism in gambiae and arabiensis (the two species of greatest medical importance) is evaluated with reference to recent field investigations carried out in Nigeria. In both sibling species some of the inversions show clinical geographical changes in frequencies, with evident correlations with climatic conditions and vegetation zones. Microgeographical variations in species distribution and in intraspecific inversion frequencies are also present, which appear mostly related to man-made environmental contrasts. Parallel indoor-/outdoor collections of samples from polymorphic populations of arabiensis and gambiae show that adult mosquitoes carrying certain inversion karyotypes do not distribute at random in relation to the human environment, being significantly more frequent in outdoor than in indoor samples, or vice-versa. Optimal habitat choice appears to be involved in such variations of indoor resting behaviour, since the chromosomal types carried by less endophilic individuals are those more adapted to humid climates, i.e. those which tend to avoid the higher nocturnal saturation deficit of the indoor environment. This phenomenon, producing non-uniform exposure of the vector population to residual insecticides sprayed in houses, might explain the mediocrity of the results of malaria control projects based on house-spraying against endophilic vectors in the African savannas.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anopheles / genetics*
  • Chromosome Inversion*
  • Ecology
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Species Specificity
  • Sudan