Mosquitoes are members of the phylum Arthropoda and belong to the class of Insecta. This class is the largest group of animals with respect to the number of species (~773,000) and to individuals. Among other characteristics three body sections are typical of this class.
As sand flies, mosquitoes are members of the suborder Nematocera. Both members can be recognised by their many segmented antennae, which are usually long. Most of the nematocerans are small, slender and long-legged, usually midge- or mosquito-like in appearance.
Within the suborder Nematocera, many flies are of economic importance, as pests or even disease vectors.
The Nematoceran larvae possess a well-developed head, and most live in water or in moist habitat, being an important item in the food chain of many freshwater fishes as aquatic larvae.
The suborder Nematocera contains a little less than one-third of the North American species of flies, in 23 of the 105 families.
Concerning mosquitoes, there are some 110 genera and subgenera, and about 3500 species of mosquitoes known at present are belonging to the family Culicidae. The most important genera, Anopheles, Culex, Aedes and Mansonia, belong to the subfamilies Anophelinae and Culicinae.
Mosquitoes are of major medical and veterinary importance due to their role as vector for transmission of various diseases (viral, bacterial and parasite).
Hexapoda (= Tracheata)
Pterygota (flying insects; here a section with complete metamorphosis)
Diptera (i.e. two-winged insects)
Anophelinae, Culicinae, Toxorhynchitinae
The order Diptera consists of two-winged flies including house-flies, stable-flies, blue-bottles, tsetse-flies and many others.
The hind wings are modified as the halteres, small organs that vibrate during flight and are believed to have a gyroscopic function providing a constant flight attitude.
The suborder Nematocera is including midges, sand flies, black flies, mothflies, harlequin-flies and mosquitoes.
Some 3500 species and subspecies of mosquitoes exist, belonging to 42 subgenera, all within the family Culicidae. The species most concerned with transmission of infections to humans and animals are contained in the genera Anopheles, Culex, Aedes, Ochlerotatus (formerly a subgenus of Aedes) and Mansonia.
The family Culicidae is separated into the three main subfamilies Anophelinae, Toxorhynchitinae and Culicinae besides further unclassified and environmental samples.
Subfamilies and Genera
Anophelinae: Anophelines contain the genus Anopheles and two other genera of no medical importance. Anopheles species are the main transmitter of malaria.
Toxorhynchitinae: Toxorhynchitinae with just one genus, Toxorhynchites, contains only species which are incapable of blood-feeding and consequently are no disease vectors. Their enormous larvae eat other mosquito larvae.
Culicinae: Within the subfamily of the culicines there are about 2000 species, including the important genera Culex, Aedes and Mansonia.