• Anopheles gambiae;
  • malaria;
  • cuticular hydrocarbons;
  • sexual dimorphism;
  • age-grading


Forty-eight cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) were characterized by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry from the epicuticular surface of the major Afrotropical malaria vector Anopheles gambiae. The hydrocarbons identified were 14 n-alkanes, 16 monomethyl alkanes, 13 dimethyl alkanes, 5 alkenes, with main-chain lengths ranging from C17 to C47, and the results are consistent with those from other Culicidae species. Qualitative differences were not observed between laboratory pools of three females and males, between different age-groups (0–16 days) and between single field specimens, whereas quantitative differences in CHC profiles were observed. Differences between sexes were more marked in individuals aged 0–2 days than in older ones. Both sexes undergo strong CHC profile changes with age, and individuals aged 0–2 days differ remarkably from the older ones. The possibility of exploiting these changes for estimating the age of mosquito was explored through multivariate analyses of the relative abundance of the compounds, using either the whole CHC profile or a subset of CHCs. Such a method allows us to assign more than 85% of females and 75% of males to the correct age-group. Although preliminary, these results show that the method is promising, as it has already been shown in Aedes aegypti and An. stephensi. The correct determination of the vector age (particularly in the case of the An. gambiae complex of sibling species) provides valuable information in malaria epidemiology and in evaluation of the effectiveness of vector control strategies. Further efforts will be made to validate this method on single specimens reared in seminatural conditions before being proposed to medical entomologists working in the Afrotropical region. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.