Genetic differentiation over a small spatial scale of the sand fly Lutzomyia vexator (Diptera: Psychodidae)

Allison T. Neal, Max S. Ross, Jos J. Schall, Anne M. Vardo-Zalik

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Background: The geographic scale and degree of genetic differentiation for arthropod vectors that transmit parasites play an important role in the distribution, prevalence and coevolution of pathogens of human and wildlife significance. We determined the genetic diversity and population structure of the sand fly Lutzomyia vexator over spatial scales from 0.56 to 3.79 km at a study region in northern California. The study was provoked by observations of differentiation at fine spatial scales of a lizard malaria parasite vectored by Lu. vexator. Methods: A microsatellite enrichment/next-generation sequencing protocol was used to identify variable microsatellite loci within the genome of Lu. vexator. Alleles present at these loci were examined in four populations of Lu. vexator in Hopland, CA. Population differentiation was assessed using Fst and D (of Cavalli-Sforza and Edwards), and the program Structure was used to determine the degree of subdivision present. The effective population size for the sand fly populations was also calculated. Results: Eight microsatellite markers were characterized and revealed high genetic diversity (uHe = 0.79-0.92, Na = 12-24) and slight but significant differentiation across the fine spatial scale examined (average pairwise D = 0.327; F ST = 0.0185 (95 % bootstrapped CI: 0.0102-0.0264). Even though the insects are difficult to capture using standard methods, the estimated population size was thousands per local site. Conclusions: The results argue that Lu. vexator at the study sites are abundant and not highly mobile, which may influence the overall transmission dynamics of the lizard malaria parasite, Plasmodium mexicanum, and other parasites transmitted by this species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalParasites and Vectors
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 18 2016


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases

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