Fine-scale population genetic structure of a wildlife disease vector: the southern house mosquito on the island of Hawaii


Nusha Keyghobadi, Present address: Department of Biology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5B7. Fax: 519-661-3935; E-mail:


The southern house mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus, is a widespread tropical and subtropical disease vector. In the Hawaiian Islands, where it was introduced accidentally almost two centuries ago, it is considered the primary vector of avian malaria and pox. Avian malaria in particular has contributed to the extinction and endangerment of Hawaii's native avifauna, and has altered the altitudinal distribution of native bird populations. We examined the population genetic structure of Cx. quinquefasciatus on the island of Hawaii at a smaller spatial scale than has previously been attempted, with particular emphasis on the effects of elevation on population genetic structure. We found significant genetic differentiation among populations and patterns of isolation by distance within the island. Elevation per se did not have a limiting effect on gene flow; however, there was significantly lower genetic diversity among populations at mid elevations compared to those at low elevations. A recent sample taken from just above the predicted upper altitudinal distribution of Cx. quinquefasciatus on the island of Hawaii was confirmed as being a temporary summer population and appeared to consist of individuals from more than one source population. Our results indicate effects of elevation gradients on genetic structure that are consistent with known effects of elevation on population dynamics of this disease vector.