New Mosquito Species Emerging

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Vampires aren't the only blood-suckers to worry about this Halloween. A mosquito in Africa is evolving into two different species. The emergence of the new species could complicate efforts to control the mosquitoes and the deadly malaria parasite they harbor.

Researchers from the National Institute of Health analyzed the genome of two strains of Anopheles gambiae and found unexpected differences. Their research supports the belief that two new species are emerging.

Although they are physically indistinguishable, the two emerging species, called Mopti and Savannah, behave differently and prefer different habitats. They react differently to predators too. Mopti out-competes Savannah when predators are around, but Savannah can overtake Mopti when there are no predators.

Every year, nearly one million people die of malaria, which is spread by mosquitoes. Most of them are infants, young children, and pregnant women, and most of them are Africans. The emergence of new species of Anopheles, the most efficient transmitter of the disease, could have serious consequences  for malaria control efforts. Control methods may have to adapt to the different behaviors of the two mosquito species.

The researchers' results were published in the October 22 issue of the journal Science.

PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons