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Attributed to human-mediated dispersal, a species of the Anopheles gambiae complex invaded northeastern Brazil in 1930. This event is considered unique among the intercontinental introductions of disease vectors and the most serious one: “Few threats to the future health of the Americas have equalled that inherent in the invasion of Brazil, in 1930, by Anopheles gambiae.” Because it was only in the 1960s that An. gambiae was recognized as a species complex now including seven species, the precise species identity of the Brazilian invader remains a mystery. Here we used historical DNA analysis of museum specimens, collected at the time of invasion from Brazil, and aimed at the identification of the Brazilian invader. Our results identify the arid-adapted Anopheles arabiensis as being the actual invading species. Establishing the identity of the species, in addition to being of intrinsic historical interest, can inform future threats of this sort especially in a changing environment. Furthermore, these results highlight the potential danger of human-mediated range expansions of insect disease vectors and the importance of museum collections in retrieving historical information.