Anopheline larvae generally inhabit the near-surface of aquatic habitats, but they dive and remain at the bottom of these habitats for some time. This study examined forced and voluntary diving behavior and submergence tolerance in the three major African malaria vectors, Anopheles gambiae Giles, An. arabiensis Patton, and An. funestus Giles. The former two species occur sympatrically in temporal and shallow water bodies, while the latter occurs in permanent deeper water bodies. Anopheles funestus was the most tolerant of submergence, but the larvae tended to halt their descent before reaching the bottom by attaching onto a wall. The difference in diving behavior between An. funestus and the two species in the An. gambiae complex may be an adaptation to their contrasting breeding sites, because the former species must spend considerable energy to surface in its typical breeding sites. Both An. gambiae and An. arabiensis reached the bottom and crawled along the substrate, but An. gambiae voluntarily crawled more often than An. arabiensis. The possible importance of asymmetric bottom-feeding between these two sympatric species is discussed.
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