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Infect Genet Evol. 2010 Oct;10(7):846-65. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2010.07.003. Epub 2010 Jul 17.

Evolution, epidemiology, and population genetics of black flies (Diptera: Simuliidae).

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  • 1Department of Entomology, Soils & Plant Sciences, Clemson University, Box 340315, 114 Long Hall, Clemson, SC 29634-0315, USA. padler@clemson.e


More than 2000 species of black flies feed on vertebrate blood; 1.5% of all species are vectors of pathogens that cause human diseases. Of nine simuliid-borne animal diseases, only two, mansonellosis and onchocerciasis, afflict humans. Onchocerciasis is a debilitating disease infecting an estimated 40 million people in Africa, Latin America, and Yemen, whereas mansonellosis is a mild disease in the Neotropics. Cytogenetic studies of natural populations of more than 500 species of black flies have revealed that the classic morphospecies of taxonomists is typically a complex of two or more reproductively isolated entities, or sibling (cryptic) species. Most vectors of human pathogens are sibling species, each ecologically unique in traits such as breeding habitats, dispersal capabilities, and degree of vector competence. We review the evolution of black flies, the cytogenetics that have revealed about 260 cytologically distinct entities, the molecular studies that continue to expose additional hidden biodiversity, and a case study of the epidemiology of the Simulium damnosum complex, the largest species complex of blood-feeding arthropods on Earth and the premier group of black flies responsible for human onchocerciasis.

Copyright 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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