The Anopheles is a genus of mosquito, and is best known for being the primary vector of malaria in humans and heartworm in dogs. They are found nearly worldwide (except Antarctica) with over 450 different species in this one genus, however it is known that only 30 to 40 species transmit malaria, depending on the region and environmental conditions. The two most common malaria vectors in Africa, A. gambiae and A. funestus, are strongly anthropophilic, preferring to feed on human blood. This makes them incredibly efficient in the transmission of the disease and makes the elimination of malaria particularly difficult. This map from the US CDC shows the global distribution of dominant or potentially important malaria vectors. Despite being a relatively old resource, it highlights the severity of the problem.
It is only the females Anopheles that bite humans as they require a blood meal for the development of eggs. The males feed mainly on nectar and other sugar sources. The females typically live no more than 2 weeks in nature, but can live up to a month, and even longer in captivity.
Most Anopheles mosquitoes are active either at dawn, dusk or at night, and can be distinguished from other mosquitoes in several ways. Their palps are as long as the proboscis, they have blocks of black and white scales on their wings, and their typical resting position is with their abdomens sticking up in the air rather than parallel to the surface on which they are resting.