Reported new non-described cryptic Culicoides species in Catalonia using molecular analysis

Accurate analysis of Culicoides species using morphological and molecular approaches resulted in the detection of diagnostic metric traits for cryptic species and the design of several new species-specific PCR assays to identify unambiguously all the 11 species from the subgenus Culicoides.

Culicoides biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) are vectors of important diseases affecting wild and domestic animals. During the last decade they have played a major role in the epidemiology of the largest bluetongue epizootic ever recorded in Europe, the disease is transmitted between hosts almost exclusively by bites of Culicoides midges and affects both domestic and wild ruminants however severe disease usually occurs in certain breeds of sheep and some species of deer.

Accurate vector identification is of major importance in arthropod borne diseases surveillance, as great differences in vectorial capacity are found even between close species. Unfortunately, specialized taxonomic knowledge of Culicoides identification is rarely available in routine surveillance, mainly based on wing morphology. Recently, some European species of Culicoides belonging to the subgenus Avaritia Fox, 1955 and Culicoides Latreille, 1809 have been described as new bluetongue virus vectors.

In the present study, by using a fragment of the barcode region (COI gene) we report the presence of up to 11 species within the subgenus Culicoides in Catalonia (NE Spain), a region recently affected by a bluetongue epizootic. The molecular analysis revealed new non-described cryptic species which were grouped in three complexes of morphologically similar species, two in the Pulicaris complex resembling Culicoides pulicaris, two in the Fagineus complex resembling Culicoides fagineus and three in the Newsteadi complex resembling Culicoides newsteadi. The phylogenetic relationships among them showed that cryptic species detected in both Pulicaris and Fagineus complexes were closely related, whereas those in the Newsteadi complex were more distant.

Culicoides wing pattern details of species belonging to Pulicaris (a–c), Fagineus (d–f) and Newsteadi (g–i) complexes.

Accurate analysis of all species using morphological and molecular approaches resulted in the detection of diagnostic metric traits for cryptic species and the design of several new species-specific single and multiplex PCR assays to identify unambiguously all the species, most of them still lacking a specific molecular diagnosis.

Results have been published as “Pagès N, Muñoz-Muñoz F, Talavera S, Sarto V, Lorca C, Núñez JI. Identification of cryptic species of Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) in the subgenus Culicoides and development of species-specific PCR assays based on barcode regions. Vet Parasitol. 2009 Nov 12;165(3-4):298-310”.

It has been also included in the Barcode of Life Initiative, a collection of research projects, organizations, and individuals devoted to developing DNA barcoding as a global standard for identifying species (http://www.dnabarcodes.org/publications/display/49).

To contact with the author of this paper:

Nonito Pagès Martínez
Investigator
Parasitology and Entomology Unit (CReSA)
Email: nitu.pages@cresa.uab.cat
Telephone no.: +34 93 581 43 42
Fax: +34 93 581 44 90
Edifici CReSA. Campus UAB
08193 Bellaterra (Barcelona) Spain

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