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Evidence of cryptic speciation in mesostigmatid mites from South Africa

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 June 2014

Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Stellenbosch University, Private Bag X1, Matieland 7602, South Africa
Evolutionary Genomics Group, Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, Private Bag X1, Matieland 7602, South Africa
ARC-Plant Protection Research Institute, Private Bag X134, Queenswood, Pretoria 0121, South Africa School of Environmental Sciences and Development, North-West University, Potchefstroom campus, Potchefstroom 2520, South Africa
Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Stellenbosch University, Private Bag X1, Matieland 7602, South Africa
*Corresponding author: Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Stellenbosch University, Private Bag X1, Matieland 7602, South Africa. E-mail:


Laelaps giganteus and Laelaps muricola (Mesostigmata; Laelapidae) are widespread and locally abundant host generalists on small mammals in southern Africa. The large host range and complex life history of these ectoparasites may allude to possible intraspecific cryptic diversity in these taxa. To assess genetic and morphological diversity in L. giganteus and L. muricola, we sampled 228 rodents at eight localities in South Africa. This sample included nine previously recorded host species and on these, L. muricola was only recorded from Mastomys natalensis and Micaelamys namaquensis while L. giganteus was found on Rhabdomys dilectus and Lemniscomys rosalia. Phylogenetic analyses of partial mtDNA cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI) and nuclear ITS1 data strongly supported the recognition of L. giganteus and L. muricola, a scenario partly supported by the Tropomyosin intron. Strong support for evolutionary distinct lineages within L. giganteus is found: L. giganteus lineage 1 is confined to R. dilectus and L. giganteus lineage 2 is confined to L. rosalia. These host specific monophyletic lineages were also separated by 9·84% mtDNA sequence divergence and 3·44% nuclear DNA sequence divergence. Since quantitative morphometric analyses were not congruent with these findings, these two lineages more than likely represent cryptic species.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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