Anopheles melas


Anopheles melas belongs to the Anopheles gambiae species complex, which consists of at least seven species, and it is a locally important vector in coastal western Africa.


An. melas is commonly associated with brackish water and can utilise saline environments, yet does not appear to require brackish water for larval stage development. It is generally restricted to coastal areas but has been found up to 150km inland along the Gambia River, where salt water can intrude great distances (up to 180km) upriver. Unlike other African dominant vector species, the density fluctuations of An. melas are closely associated with tidal changes rather than seasons, and a peak in adult numbers 11 days after spring tides has been recorded. The larvae of this species are associated with salt marsh grass (Paspalum species) and mangroves, but only those of the genus Avicenna, which include white, grey and black mangrove, and not from the genus Rhizophora (’true’ or red mangrove spp.). These positive and negative associations are thought to be strongly influenced by the predominant soil type associated with the different tree genera, The poorly drained, peaty-like soil common to Avicenna forests appears preferable to An. melas compared to the sandy, gravelly or smooth, fibrous peat soils common to the Rhizophora stands. An. melas oviposits on damp ground at low tide rather than in open water, and the eggs are able to survive some degree of desiccation until the tides rise again. This behaviour may guarantee the larvae will have sufficient time to complete their larval development and pupate in the less saline, relatively permanent waters of the new tide before it begins to recede and the water either becomes too salty, or dries out completely.

Resting and feeding preferences

Adult biting behaviour appears to be opportunistic. An. melas has been described as both highly anthropophilic and a zoophilic species and has been shown to be fairly indiscriminate in host choice. An. melas generally rests outdoors after feeding, although there has been limited success in locating and collecting from such natural outdoor resting sites. Those females that do bite and rest indoors are more likely to have fed on humans whereas those biting or resting outdoors (or in animal sheds) are more likely to have bitten animals. Blood feeding activity appears to be fairly continuous throughout the night.

Vectorial capacity

An. melas is generally considered to be a vector of lesser importance where it occurs in in the same places as An. gambiae or An. arabiensis. However, in coastal areas, where it can occur in very high densities, it is still a problematic vector of malaria.

This text was modified from Sinka ME et al. (2010) The dominant Anopheles vectors of human malaria in Africa, Europe and the Middle East: occurrence data, distribution maps and bionomic précis Parasites & Vectors 3:117.

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