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Int J Parasitol. 2002 May;32(5):563-74.

Distribution and evolution of the Anopheles punctulatus group (Diptera: Culicidae) in Australia and Papua New Guinea.

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  • 1Molecular Parasitology Unit, University of Technology, Westbourne Street, Gore Hill, 2065, Sydney, NSW, Australia.


The members of the Anopheles punctulatus group are major vectors of malaria and Bancroftian filariasis in the southwest Pacific region. The group is comprised of 12 cryptic species that require DNA-based tools for species identification. From 1984 to 1998 surveys were carried out in northern Australia, Papua New Guinea and on islands in the southwest Pacific to determine the distribution of the A. punctulatus group. The results of these surveys have now been completed and have generated distribution data from more than 1500 localities through this region. Within this region several climatic and geographical barriers were identified that restricted species distribution and gene flow between geographic populations. This information was further assessed in light of a molecular phylogeny derived from the ssrDNA (18S). Subsequently, hypotheses have been generated on the evolution and distribution of the group so that future field and laboratory studies may be approached more systematically. This study suggested that the ability for widespread dispersal was found to have appeared independently in species that show niche-specific habitat preference (Anopheles farauti s.s. and A. punctulatus) and conversely in species that showed diversity in their larval habitat (Anopheles farauti 2). Adaptation to the monsoonal climate of northern Australia and southwest Papua New Guinea was found to have appeared independently in A. farauti s.s., A. farauti 2 and Anopheles farauti 3. Shared or synapomorphic characters were identified as saltwater tolerance (A. farauti s.s. and Anopheles farauti 7) and elevational affinities above 1500 m (Anopheles farauti 5, Anopheles farauti 6 and A. farauti 2).

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