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African Malaria Mosquito Fact File

Appearance

The African malaria mosquito is a small winged insect. They have three pairs of legs and the back pair will raise up while they are feeding.

At the front of the head is the straw or needle like mouthpart. This long thin tube is used to feed on their food. On either side of this are a pair of palps which are long thin furry like appendages which can sense the breath of mammals.

Extending from the top of their head is a pair of antennae which in females look like thread while in males they are more feathery.

The rounded abdomen is able to swell to as much as three times to hold blood on which they are feeding.

On their back are a pair of wings.

Their body has three segments, the head, thorax and abdomen. In African malaria mosquitos the thorax is covered by a tough shield known as the scutum.

The body is colored yellowish brown or brown. The last segment is typically entirely dark. Their palpi tend to have pale bands.

Diet

Male and female African malaria mosquitos have a different diet. Females are well known for their habit of feeding on the blood of males including that of humans.

It is this habit that allows them to transmit diseases.

Female mosquitos have a flexible mouthpart which can move around inside their food source to find a vein. They also inject saliva to prevent clotting in the blood. In most people this creates an allergic reaction and the well-known red, itchy bump.

Males feed on plant fluids such as nectar.

African malaria mosquito

Scientific Name

Anopheles gambiae

Conservation Status

Not Evaluated

Length

8mm (0.25in)

Diet

Omnivorous

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Range

Africa is the native home of the African malaria mosquito. The group of species is widely distributed across the country.

Habitat

This species will make its home across much of Africa as long as water is available for them to breed in.

African malaria mosquito

Reproduction

Mosquito larva go through four stages in their life cycle. They begin as an egg which hatches in to a larva. These then pupate before turning in to the flying adult.

They require stagnant water in to which they can deposit their eggs. A clutch of eggs may include up to 200 eggs.

Larva and pupa are entirely aquatic. The larva feed on small organic matter while the pupa do not feed.

Mating will take place almost as soon as they emerge from their egg. The females rely on feeding on blood to mature their eggs.

Behavior

Females are mostly active by night when they will take flight to find food.

Food sources can be detected by their breath or body heat.

African malaria mosquito

Predators and Threats

Natural predators of the African malaria mosquito include birds, bats, frogs, lizards and spiders.

Quick facts

The African malaria mosquito is not a single species. Instead it is a complex of nine species which share morphological similarities but can not reproduce with one another.

This species is one of the primary vectors for the disease Malaria which causes up to 800,000 deaths each year. Other diseases can also be transmitted by them including yellow fever, dengue fever and West Nile virus. Roughly 90% of all malaria cases occur in Africa.

Their ability to transmit these viruses has made them the most deadly animal on Earth.

Photo Credits

Under License

References

Martin, R., Bryan, K., Cooper, D. and Bond, S., n.d. The Animal Book. Lonely Planet.

Woodward, J., Dennis-Bryan, K. and Walerzcuk, V., n.d. Knowledge encyclopedia animal!.

P.L. Dorn, C.A. Hill, in Genetics and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (Second Edition), 2017

Prior, J. 2003. "Anopheles gambiae" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 11, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Anopheles_gambiae/

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