Dinopsyllus ellobius is considered a common and widespread flea in southern Africa and can act as a vector for plague. Due to differences in the interpretation of geographical variation in male sternite VIII, the taxonomy of the species is characterized by uncertainty. In an attempt to provide a better understanding of the systematics of D. ellobius, and also to provide new insights into the mechanisms that play a role in the diversification of the taxon, we sampled 830 small mammals at 31 localities throughout the distribution range of the parasite. Mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit II (COII) sequence data were generated for 151 D. ellobius specimens from 19 positive localities and this data set was supplemented with partial data derived from an elongation factor 1 alpha (EF1-α) intron. A parsimony haplotype network of the mtDNA and a Splitstree analyses revealed the existence of two genetic clades that were separated by 5.53% (± 1.78) sequence divergence. Although the nuclear DNA data were unresolved, significant size differences were detected between head, coxa, femur and tibia lengths of male individuals belonging to the two mtDNA lineages. The exact mechanisms that could have caused the diversification among lineages are not clear but the two lineages seem to be geographically separated and may have different ecological requirements. The present study strongly supports the notion that the two lineages are representative of D. ellobius (probably more associated with the host body and better adapted to mesic conditions) and Dinopsyllus abaris (probably more associated with the host nest and diverse climatic conditions) as originally proposed based on the single morphological character confined to male sternite VIII.
- Cytochrome c oxidase subunit II
- Dinopsyllus abaris
- Dinopsyllus ellobius
- Elongation factor 1 alpha
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics