Taxonomy, Epidemiology, Evolution and Phylogeny of Common Ectoparasites of Vertebrates: Siphonaptera and Acari

A special issue of Diversity (ISSN 1424-2818). This special issue belongs to the section "Phylogeny and Evolution".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 May 2024 | Viewed by 5127

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Microbiology and Parasitology, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Seville, 41012 Sevilla, Spain
Interests: molecular parasitology; zoonoses; infectious Disease Transmission; evolutionary parasitology; molecular entomology; fleas; Siphonaptera

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Guest Editor
Centro de Estudios Parasitológicos y de Vectores (CEPAVE) (CONICET, UNLP), Bv. 120 s/n, 1900 La Plata, Argentina
Interests: ectoparasites; Acari; Mesostigmata; Siphonaptera; vectors

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Fleas (Siphonaptera) constitute a highly distinct group of holometabolous bloodsucking insects which currently include about 2600 species-level taxa belonging to 16 families and 238 genera. Some authors have argued that Siphonaptera is the most completely studied order of insects, and although this is perhaps true from a morphological classification perspective, from a phylogenetic standpoint, they have been sorely neglected as a group. Classically, the major obstacle in flea phylogeny has been their extreme morphological specialization associated with ectoparasitism, and the inability of systematics to homogenize characters adequately across flea and outgroup taxa. In the past 30 years, there have been over 3000 publications dealing with some aspects of fleas, but only a few instances of formal cladistics analysis, so in-depth and continuous studies based on molecular data are needed to clarify the unknown phylogeny of this order. In addition, recent studies have demonstrated the existence of cryptic species, phenotypic plasticity or synonym taxa within the Siphonaptera. Fleas sometimes appear to have many instances of parallel morphological evolution, likely associated with multiple invasions of similar hosts. Even recent studies have provided incongruence between molecular and morphological results, emphasizing the necessity of combining morphological, phylogenetic and molecular data in order to assess and elucidate taxonomic issues regarding Siphonaptera.

Among arthropods, Acari constitute an important component of known biodiversity and include species that exhibit wide variability in their biology and ecology. Among them are parasites, which, due to their alternating phases of free life and those associated with the hosts, are located in different links of the different trophic webs. For this reason, their sanitary importance is important as parasites in themselves and as vectors.

Prof. Dr. Antonio Zurita
Dr. Marcela Lareschi
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • parasites
  • Siphonaptera
  • Acari
  • evolution
  • phylogeny
  • taxonomy
  • distribution
  • epidemiology

Published Papers (3 papers)

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Research

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14 pages, 2999 KiB  
Article
Diversity of Flea Species (Siphonaptera) and Their Vector-Borne Pathogens from Bats (Chiroptera) in Lithuania
by Povilas Sakalauskas, Indrė Lipatova, Loreta Griciuvienė, Irma Ražanskė, Justina Snegiriovaitė and Algimantas Paulauskas
Diversity 2024, 16(4), 192; https://doi.org/10.3390/d16040192 - 22 Mar 2024
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Abstract
Bat fleas (Insecta: Siphonaptera: Ischnopsyllidae) are highly host-specific ectoparasites distributed worldwide (except Antarctica). The identification of flea species and the detection of flea-borne pathogens plays a significant role not only in veterinary and public health, but also in providing insights into the ecology, [...] Read more.
Bat fleas (Insecta: Siphonaptera: Ischnopsyllidae) are highly host-specific ectoparasites distributed worldwide (except Antarctica). The identification of flea species and the detection of flea-borne pathogens plays a significant role not only in veterinary and public health, but also in providing insights into the ecology, behaviour, and geographical distribution of fleas and flea-associated pathogens. The present study aimed to conduct a morphological and molecular identification of fleas collected from Lithuanian bats, as well as to screen for the presence of vector-borne pathogens. A total of 58 flea specimens were collected from bats in Lithuania. Based on morphological analysis, seven flea species were identified (Ischnopsyllus variabilis, I. octactenus, I. simplex, I. elongatus, I. hexactenus, Nycteridopsylla pentactena, and N. eusarca) and screened for the presence of Anaplasma spp., Borrelia spp., Babesia spp., Bartonella spp., Rickettsia spp., and Mycoplasma spp. Molecular analysis of fleas’ COI and 18S rRNA genes showed that the flea species collected from bats are closely genetically related. Bartonella DNA was detected in bat fleas (41.4%). No DNA of Anaplasma, Borrelia, Babesia, Rickettsia, and Mycoplasma was amplified in the tested samples. The Wolbachia sp. was accidentally found in I. elongatus. The phylogenetic analysis of four Bartonella genes (16S-23S rRNA ITS, gltA, rpoB, and groEL) revealed specificity to bats or bats’ ectoparasites. This is the first report about bat flea species and the pathogens in bat fleas in Lithuania. New host records for bat fleas were also reported. This study extends the knowledge about bat fleas and their role as vectors of different pathogens. Full article
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17 pages, 1670 KiB  
Article
New Insights into the Taxonomy of Malacopsylloidea Superfamily (Siphonaptera) Based on Morphological, Molecular and Phylogenetic Characterization of Phthiropsylla agenoris (Malacopsyllidae) and Polygenis (Polygenis) rimatus (Rhopalopsyllidae)
by Antonio Zurita, Marcela Lareschi and Cristina Cutillas
Diversity 2023, 15(2), 308; https://doi.org/10.3390/d15020308 - 20 Feb 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1861
Abstract
From a phylogenetic point of view, the Malacopsyllidae family and the Rhopalopsillidae family (comprising Parapsyllinae and Rhopalopsyllinae subfamilies) have been traditionally classified within the Malacopsylloidea superfamily, mostly restricted to South America. The phylogenetic relationships and taxonomic status of Malacopsyllidae and Rhopalopsillidae have never [...] Read more.
From a phylogenetic point of view, the Malacopsyllidae family and the Rhopalopsillidae family (comprising Parapsyllinae and Rhopalopsyllinae subfamilies) have been traditionally classified within the Malacopsylloidea superfamily, mostly restricted to South America. The phylogenetic relationships and taxonomic status of Malacopsyllidae and Rhopalopsillidae have never been assessed since no molecular loci of Malacopsyllidae have been sequenced by any authors, and the phylogeny provided so far was not based on any sort of formal quantitative analysis of flea morphology. Based on these precedents, the objective of this study was to carry out a comparative phylogenetic, molecular and morphological study of two different species belonging to each family, Phthiropsylla agenoris (Malacopsylla) and Polygenis (Polygenis) rimatus (Rhopalopsyllidae, Rhopalopsyllinae). In this study, we demonstrated the usefulness of several morphological features as diagnostic characters to differentiate between P. (P.) rimatus and P. agenoris. Using molecular and phylogenetic data, we easily discriminated between the two taxa (P. agenoris and P. (P.) rimatus) by comparing both nuclear and mitochondrial markers. This fact proves the usefulness of ITS2, EF1−α, cox1, cytb and cox2 as molecular diagnostic markers to characterize and identify different Siphonaptera taxa. Additionally, the phylogenetic results confirm, for the first time, the monophyly of the Malacopsyllidae family and suggest a clear paraphyletic position of the Paraspsyllinae subfamily and, consequently, the Rhopalopsyllidae family. Full article
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Review

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21 pages, 3780 KiB  
Review
Fleas as Useful Tools for Science
by Pedro Marcos Linardi
Diversity 2023, 15(11), 1153; https://doi.org/10.3390/d15111153 - 20 Nov 2023
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Abstract
Adult fleas are blood-feeding insects that exclusively infest mammals, acting as parasites and disease vectors. Although certain species exclusively inhabit nests, others are commonly found on the bodies of mammals. Immature stages develop in the soil, inside or near the nests of their [...] Read more.
Adult fleas are blood-feeding insects that exclusively infest mammals, acting as parasites and disease vectors. Although certain species exclusively inhabit nests, others are commonly found on the bodies of mammals. Immature stages develop in the soil, inside or near the nests of their respective hosts, making them susceptible to environmental alterations. On hosts, flea infestations are usually defined by abundance, prevalence, and diversity, varying according to host age, sex, size, behavior, habitat, and climate. However, in spite of their vast parasitological importance, fleas have only occasionally been used in applied research. This review focuses especially on the use of mammal fleas as tools or indicators in solving biological, epidemiological, ecological, and phylogenetic questions, and raises new perspectives for future studies. Full article
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