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Strain- and sex-specific differences in daily flight activity and the circadian clock of Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes

Rund, Samuel S.C., Lee, Samuel J., Bush, Brian R., Duffield, Giles E.
Journal of insect physiology 2012 v.58 no.12 pp. 1609-1619
Anopheles gambiae, circadian rhythm, females, flight, light intensity, malaria, males, nocturnal activity, reproductive isolation, swarms, temporal variation
Anopheles gambiae, the primary African malaria vector, is currently speciating into two incipient species, the so-called “molecular forms” M and S. While some geographic areas may contain only one form, in many areas both forms are found coexisting, but reproductively isolated. It appears that spatial segregation of mating swarms may contribute significantly to reproductive isolation as in many locales single-form swarms exist almost exclusively even though they are in close geographic proximity. The mechanism causing this spatial segregation is not well understood. Here, we compare the locomotor flight activity of M and S form male and female An. gambiae mosquitoes with the goal of identifying potential strain-specific temporal differences that could potentially serve as a mating barrier. We use an infrared beam break method to monitor flight activity of individual mosquitoes with a minute-to-minute time resolution under both LD cycle and constant dark conditions. We compare daily total flight activity, activity onset, peak in early nocturnal activity, the build up of dusk-related activity, and the free-running circadian period length. Our investigations revealed strain- and sex-specific differences in total daily activity. In both forms, males commenced nightly flight activity earlier than females, and this corresponded with a significantly shorter circadian period length in males compared to females. We note strain-specific differences in this response to dusk as males of the M form have a pronounced build up in flight activity relative to the S form males prior to complete darkness. This is likely driven by a differential response to the decreasing light intensity at dusk. We hypothesize that this behavioral difference could be a temporal factor contributing to the assembly of single-form swarms.