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Origin, evolution, phylogeny and taxonomy of Pulex irritans

A Zurita, R Callejón, Á M García-Sánchez, M Urdapilleta, M Lareschi, C Cutillas
Medical and Veterinary Entomology 2019 February 9
The human flea Pulex irritans Linnaeus, 1758 (Siphonaptera: Pulicidae) is one of the most studied species together with the cat flea Ctenocephalides felis Bouché, 1835, because they have a cosmopolitan distribution and are closely related to humans. The present study aimed to carry out a comparative morphometric and molecular study of two different populations of P. irritans (Spain and Argentina). Accordingly, internal transcribed spacer (ITS)1 and ITS2 of rDNA and the partial cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (cox1) and cytochrome b (cytb) mtDNA genes of these taxa were sequenced. Furthermore, the taxonomy, origin, evolution and phylogeny of P. irritans was assessed. The morphometric data obtained did not show significant differences between P. irritans specimens from Spain and Argentina, even when these two populations were collected from different hosts; however, there was a considerable degree of molecular divergence between both populations based on nuclear and mitochondrial markers. Thus, it is proposed that P. irritans, in contrast with other generalist fleas, maintains a certain degree of morphological similarity, at least between Western Palearctic and Neotropical areas. Furthermore, two well defined geographical genetic lineages within the P. irritans species are indicated, suggesting the existence of two cryptic species that could be discriminated by a polymerase chain reaction-linked restriction fragment length polymorphism.


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