The globally invasive mosquito subspecies Aedes aegypti aegypti is an effective vector of human arboviruses, in part because it specializes in biting humans and breeding in human habi-tats. Recent work suggests that specialization first arose as an adaptation to long, hot dry seasons in the West African Sahel, where Ae. aegypti relies on human-stored water for breeding. Here, we use whole-genome cross-coalescent analysis to date the emergence of human-specialist popula-tionsand thus further probe the climate hypothesis. Importantly, we take advantage of the known migration of specialists out of Africa during the Atlantic Slave Trade to calibrate the coalescent clock and thus obtain a more precise estimate of the older evolutionary event than would otherwise be possible. We find that human-specialist mosquitoes diverged rapidly from ecological generalists approximately 5000 years ago, at the end of the African Humid Period—a time when the Sahara dried and water stored by humans became a uniquely stable, aquatic niche in the Sahel. We also use population genomic analyses to date a previously observed influx of human-specialist alleles into major West African cities. The characteristic length of tracts of human-specialist ancestry present on a generalist genetic background in Kumasi and Ouagadougou suggests the change in behavior occurred during rapid urbanization over the last 20–40 years. Taken together, we show that the timing and ecological context of two previously observed shifts towards human biting in Ae. aegypti differ; climate was likely the original driver, but urbanization has become increasingly important in recent decades.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Immunology and Microbiology
- General Neuroscience