In West Africa, M and S molecular forms of Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto (Diptera: Culicidae) Giles, frequently occur together, although with different population bionomics. The S form typically breeds in rain-dependant water collections and is present during the rainy season only whereas the M form can thrive all year long in areas with permanent breeding opportunities. In the present study, we explored physiological and developmental trade-offs at play in laboratory colonies and field populations of the M and S forms that originated from an area of sympatry in Burkina Faso, where M and S larvae exhibit such habitat segregation. In the laboratory, larvae of the M form developed slower than the S form (mean values 9.51 and 8.85 days, respectively, Wilcoxon's test, P < 0.001).
Although wing length and dry weight at emergence showed large variations, M females were on average 8% heavier than S females of similar wing length. Higher nutritional reserves (proteins and lipids) in teneral adults explained part of this weight difference, reflecting a better ability of the M form to garner resources at the larval stage. Furthermore, a higher rate of ovarian maturation was observed in the M form after a single bloodmeal. The relevance of these findings for parasite transmission is discussed.