Abstract. Culicoides species belonging to the Obsoletus complex (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) have been indicated as primary bluetongue (BT) vectors in many European countries and their possible involvement in the maintenance and overwintering of BT viruses has been suggested, even in regions where Culicoides imicola Keiffer is the main vector. The Obsoletus complex includes two predominant taxa, Culicoides obsoletus (Meigen) and Culicoides scoticus Downes & Kettle. However, the role played by each species in the epidemiology of BT is still unknown. Taxonomic identification is mainly based on the morphology of male genitalia and the lack of other reliable diagnostic features makes the screening of trap-collected vector populations, mainly females, particularly difficult. Although molecular markers have facilitated species identification, little information is yet available on the biology, abundance and population dynamics of the two taxa. The aim of this work was to investigate the genetic profile and temporal distribution of C. obsoletus and C. scoticus by using isozyme electrophoresis applied to adult midges, collected weekly at two selected farms in southern Sardinia. A total of nine enzyme loci were analysed and five of them provided diagnostic allozyme markers (Hk, Mdh, Pgi, Idh-1 and Idh-2 ). Nei’s genetic distance between the two taxa was in the range of other well-separated taxa (D = 1.792), supporting their status as true species. Culicoides scoticus represented almost 61% of the 562 specimens analysed; its genetic structure was characterized by a very low level of intra-population variation (mean heterozygosity He = 0.019) and higher genetic divergence between populations (FST = 0.0016) than in C. obsoletus. The latter species had significantly more heterozygotes (He = 0.123), a higher percentage of polymorphic loci, and no inter-population differentiation (FST ∼= 0). We suggest that different biological and ecological constraints, such as breeding habitat requirements, may contribute to shaping the genetic profiles of C. scoticus and C. obsoletus. However, enough gene flow was maintained between populations of each species as no spatial and temporal structuring was sustained by Fisher’s exact probability test (P > 0.5). The seasonal distributions of C. scoticus and C. obsoletus only partially overlapped: both species were mainly found early in the year, when the main vector, C. imicola, was present in low numbers, and peaked in abundance in April and May.Culicoides scoticus was predominant until May, decreased rapidly in the following months and increased again in winter, whereas C. obsoletus decreased more slowly and was still present in early summer. Consequently, C. scoticus may be a good candidate for playing a role in the transmission and maintenance of BT virus in Sardinia,as well as in other Mediterranean countries, during the months of late winter and early spring when the seroconversion of sentinel animals is still occurring in the absence of the main vector.

Genetic structure and population dynamics of Culicoides obsoletus and Culicoides scoticus (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae): implications for the transmission and maintenance of bluetongue

MARCHI, ANNALISA
2010-01-01

Abstract

Abstract. Culicoides species belonging to the Obsoletus complex (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) have been indicated as primary bluetongue (BT) vectors in many European countries and their possible involvement in the maintenance and overwintering of BT viruses has been suggested, even in regions where Culicoides imicola Keiffer is the main vector. The Obsoletus complex includes two predominant taxa, Culicoides obsoletus (Meigen) and Culicoides scoticus Downes & Kettle. However, the role played by each species in the epidemiology of BT is still unknown. Taxonomic identification is mainly based on the morphology of male genitalia and the lack of other reliable diagnostic features makes the screening of trap-collected vector populations, mainly females, particularly difficult. Although molecular markers have facilitated species identification, little information is yet available on the biology, abundance and population dynamics of the two taxa. The aim of this work was to investigate the genetic profile and temporal distribution of C. obsoletus and C. scoticus by using isozyme electrophoresis applied to adult midges, collected weekly at two selected farms in southern Sardinia. A total of nine enzyme loci were analysed and five of them provided diagnostic allozyme markers (Hk, Mdh, Pgi, Idh-1 and Idh-2 ). Nei’s genetic distance between the two taxa was in the range of other well-separated taxa (D = 1.792), supporting their status as true species. Culicoides scoticus represented almost 61% of the 562 specimens analysed; its genetic structure was characterized by a very low level of intra-population variation (mean heterozygosity He = 0.019) and higher genetic divergence between populations (FST = 0.0016) than in C. obsoletus. The latter species had significantly more heterozygotes (He = 0.123), a higher percentage of polymorphic loci, and no inter-population differentiation (FST ∼= 0). We suggest that different biological and ecological constraints, such as breeding habitat requirements, may contribute to shaping the genetic profiles of C. scoticus and C. obsoletus. However, enough gene flow was maintained between populations of each species as no spatial and temporal structuring was sustained by Fisher’s exact probability test (P > 0.5). The seasonal distributions of C. scoticus and C. obsoletus only partially overlapped: both species were mainly found early in the year, when the main vector, C. imicola, was present in low numbers, and peaked in abundance in April and May.Culicoides scoticus was predominant until May, decreased rapidly in the following months and increased again in winter, whereas C. obsoletus decreased more slowly and was still present in early summer. Consequently, C. scoticus may be a good candidate for playing a role in the transmission and maintenance of BT virus in Sardinia,as well as in other Mediterranean countries, during the months of late winter and early spring when the seroconversion of sentinel animals is still occurring in the absence of the main vector.
Population genetics; Biting midges; Bluetongue
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11584/27581
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