Delineation of Culicoides species by morphology and barcode exemplified by three new species of the subgenus Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) from Scandinavia

Søren Achim Nielsen, Michael Kristensen

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    Background Culicoides biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) cause biting nuisance to livestock and humans and are vectors of a range of pathogens of medical and veterinary importance. Despite their economic significance, the delineation and identification of species where only morphology is considered, as well as the evolutionary relationships between species within this genus remains problematic. In recent years molecular barcoding has assisted substantially in the identification of biting midges in the multiple entomological survey projects which were initiated in many European countries following the bluetongue outbreak in 2006–2009. These studies revealed potentially new species and “species-complexes” with large genetic and morphological variability. Here we use molecular barcoding, together with morphological analysis, to study subgenus Culicoides Latreille from Scandinavia with focus on three potentially new species. Methods Biting midges were collected at various sites in Denmark and Sweden. Culicoides specimens were described by variation of a fragment of their cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (COI) gene sequence and wing, palp and antennal characters. Results It is shown that three new species initially separated by DNA barcoding with mitochondrial COI can be distinguished by morphological characters. In this context a key to Scandinavian subgenus Culicoides using wing and maxillary palp characters is presented. The key is including the three new species Culicoides boyi, Culicoides selandicus and Culicoides kalix. Conclusion Three new species of Culicoides biting midges were identified and could be identified by both molecular and morphological differences. Evaluation of differences between and within taxa of biting midges using COI barcode yielded a rough estimate of species delineation; interspecies differences across Culicoides subgenera approaches 20%, whereas intraspecies differences are below 4% and in most cases below 1%.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalParasites & Vectors
    Issue number151
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

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