PerspectiveEVOLUTIONARY GENOMICS

Conundrum of jumbled mosquito genomes

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Science  02 Jan 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6217, pp. 27-28
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa3600

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Summary

Malaria is caused by injection of Plasmodium parasites into the human bloodstream via the bites of infected mosquitoes. This simple description overlooks a fantastic biological complexity: Some 60 anopheline mosquito species can serve as vectors for five distinct species of Plasmodium that produce varying levels of illness in many animal species. Comparative genomic studies may shed light on the mechanisms whereby Anopheles gambiae specifically target humans, why the mosquitoes can tolerate P. falciparum infection, and how the parasite has adapted to this lifestyle. In this issue, Neafsey et al. [(1), page 43] and Fontaine et al. [(2), page 42] analyze the genome sequences of 16 species of anopheline mosquitoes and reveal a complex pattern of evolution that defies the classic concept of a phylogenetic tree.