The "wingbeat hypothesis" of reproductive isolation between members of the Anopheles gambiae complex (Diptera: Culicidae) does not fly

Frédéric Tripet, Guimogo Dolo, Sheik Traoré, Gregory C Lanzaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Recent advances have demonstrated that, in the absence of postmating barriers to hybridization, reproductive isolation between different forms of Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto is maintained by strong assortative mating. The forms of An. gambiae s.s. and the sister species An. arabiensis commonly form mixed swarms in which they mate. This raises the question as to how individuals recognize mates of their own species or form within swarms. It has been proposed that wingbeat frequency is used as a cue to discriminate potential mates. This has important implications for prospective genetic control programs. We used a photosensor to record the transient waveforms generated by individuals An. arabiensis and from the M and S molecular forms of An. gambiae s.s. as they flew through a beam of light. We found no significant between-species or between-form differences in the fundamental harmonic - equivalent to wingbeat frequency - either in males or females collected from sympatric populations in Mali, West Africa. However, there were significant differences in the amplitude of the first and third harmonics in females and of the first and second harmonics in males. Whereas these results suggest some morphological or behavioral differences between species and forms, the extensive overlap in the distributions of harmonic amplitudes does not point to them as reliable cues for assortative mating. Combining all waveforms parameters into a discriminant analysis did not yield characteristic scores either for males or females. Thus, our results do not support the wingbeat hypothesis of premating isolation in the An. gambiae complex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-384
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Medical Entomology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2004


  • Mate choice
  • Premating barriers to reproduction
  • Recognition cues
  • Reproductive isolation
  • Sympatric speciation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science
  • veterinary(all)


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