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Genetics. 1997 Dec;147(4):1817-28.

Patterns of mitochondrial variation within and between African malaria vectors, Anopheles gambiae and An. arabiensis, suggest extensive gene flow.

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  • 1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Parasitic Diseases, Chamblee, Georgia 30341, USA.


Anopheles gambiae and An. arabiensis are mosquito species responsible for most malaria transmission in sub-Saharan Africa. They are also closely related sibling species that share chromosomal and molecular polymorphisms as a consequence of incomplete lineage sorting or introgressive hybridization. To help resolve these processes, this study examined the partitioning of mtDNA sequence variation within and between species across Africa, from both population genetic and phylogeographic perspectives. Based on partial gene sequences from the cytochrome b, ND1 and ND5 genes, haplotype diversity was high but sequences were very closely related. Within species, little or no population subdivision was detected, and there was no evidence for isolation by distance. Between species, there were no fixed nucleotide differences, a high proportion of shared polymorphisms, and eight haplotypes in common over distances as great as 6000 km. Only one of 16 shared polymorphisms led to an amino acid difference, and there was no compelling evidence for nonneutral variation. Parsimony networks constructed of haplotypes from both species revealed no correspondence of haplotype with either geography or taxonomy. This trend of low intraspecific genetic divergence is consistent with evidence from allozyme and microsatellite data and is interpreted in terms of both extensive gene flow and recent range expansion from relatively large, stable populations. We argue that retention of ancestral polymorphisms is a plausible but insufficient explanation for low interspecific genetic divergence, and that extensive hybridization is a contributing factor.

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