Fragmentation of natural environments as a result of human interference has been associated with a decrease in species richness and increase in abundance of a few species that have adapted to these environments. The Brazilian Atlantic Forest, which has been undergoing an intense process of fragmentation and deforestation caused by human-made changes to the environment, is an important hotspot for malaria transmission. The main vector of simian and human malaria in this biome is the mosquito Anopheles cruzii. Anthropogenic processes reduce the availability of natural resources at the tree canopies, An. cruzii primary habitat. As a consequence, An. cruzii moves to the border of the Atlantic Forest nearing urban areas seeking resources, increasing their contact with humans in the process. We hypothesized that different levels of anthropogenic changes to the environment can be an important factor in driving the genetic structure and diversity in An. cruzii populations. Five different hypotheses using a cross-sectional and a longitudinal design were tested to assess genetic structure in sympatric An. cruzii populations and microevolutionary processes driving these populations. Single nucleotide polymorphisms were used to assess microgeographic genetic structure in An. cruzii populations in a low-endemicity area in the city of São Paulo, Brazil. Our results show an overall weak genetic structure among the populations, indicating a high gene flow system. However, our results also pointed to the presence of significant genetic structure between sympatric An. cruzii populations collected at ground and tree-canopy habitats in the urban environment and higher genetic variation in the ground-level population. This indicates that anthropogenic modifications leading to habitat fragmentation and a higher genetic diversity and structure in ground-level populations could be driving the behavior of An. cruzii, ultimately increasing its contact with humans. Understanding how anthropogenic changes in natural areas affect An. cruzii is essential for the development of more effective mosquito control strategies and, on a broader scale, for malaria-elimination efforts in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest.
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