Anthropogenic Habitat Disturbance and Ecological Divergence between Incipient Species of the Malaria Mosquito Anopheles gambiae

PLoS ONEPLoS ONE 7(6): e39453, Published online 22 June 2012

Colince Kamdem, Billy Tene Fossog, Frédéric Simard, Joachim Etouna, Cyrille Ndo, Pierre Kengne1, Philippe Boussès, François-Xavier Etoa, Parfait Awono-Ambene, Didier Fontenille, Christophe Antonio-Nkondjio, Nora J. Besansky, and Carlo Costantini

“Background: Anthropogenic habitat disturbance is a prime cause in the current trend of the Earth’s reduction in biodiversity. Here we show that the human footprint on the Central African rainforest, which is resulting in deforestation and growth of densely populated urban agglomerates, is associated to ecological divergence and cryptic speciation leading to adaptive radiation within the major malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae.

Larval habitats of the malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae in the rainforest of Cameroon.

Larval habitats of the malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae in the rainforest of Cameroon.

“Methodology/Principal Findings: In southern Cameroon, the frequency of two molecular forms–M and S–among which reproductive isolation is strong but still incomplete, was correlated to an index of urbanisation extracted from remotely sensed data, expressed as the proportion of built-up surface in each sampling unit. The two forms markedly segregated along an urbanisation gradient forming a bimodal cline of ~6-km width: the S form was exclusive to the rural habitat, whereas only the M form was present in the core of densely urbanised settings, co-occurring at times in the same polluted larval habitats of the southern house mosquito Culex quinquefasciatus–a species association that was not historically recorded before.

“Conclusions/Significance: Our results indicate that when humans create novel habitats and ecological heterogeneities, they can provide evolutionary opportunities for rapid adaptive niche shifts associated with lineage divergence, whose consequences upon malaria transmission might be significant.”