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Evolution of host range in the follicle mite Demodex kutzeri

  • MICHAEL F. PALOPOLI (a1), VAN TRA (a1), KASSEY MATOIN (a1) and PHUONG D. MAC (a1)

Summary

The sequences of four mitochondrial genes were determined for Demodex mites isolated from two distantly related species within the family Cervidae, and identified morphologically as belonging to the species Demodex kutzeri. The sequences were used to test the hypothesis that Demodex are strictly host-specific, and hence cospeciate with their hosts: (1) The estimated divergence time between mites found on elk vs humans agreed closely with a previous estimate of the time that these host species last shared a common ancestor, suggesting cospeciation of mites and hosts, at least over long evolutionary timescales. (2) The extremely low levels of sequence divergence between the mites found on elk vs mule deer hosts indicated that these mites belong to the same species, which suggests that Demodex are able to move across host species boundaries over shorter timescales. Together, the results are consistent with the model that Demodex mites are not strict host-specialists, but instead lose the ability to move between host lineages gradually.

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Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Department of Biology, Bowdoin College, 6500 College Station, Brunswick, ME 04011, USA. E-mail: mpalopol@bowdoin.edu

References

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