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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2003 Apr;27(1):131-42.

Molecules and morphology: evidence for cryptic hybridization in African Hyalomma (Acari: Ixodidae).

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Department of Zoology, University of Bergen, All├ęgaten 41, 5007 Bergen, Norway.


The role of natural hybridization and introgression as part of the evolutionary process is of increasing interest to zoologists, particularly as more examples of gene exchange among species are identified. We present mitochondrial and nuclear sequence data for Hyalomma dromedarii, Hyalomma truncatum, and Hyalomma marginatum rufipes (Acari: Ixodidae) collected from one-humped camels in Ethiopia. These species are well differentiated morphologically and genetically; sequence data from the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) cytochrome oxidase I gene indicates 10-14% divergence between the species. However, incongruence between morphology and the mtDNA phylogeny was observed, with multiple individuals of H. dromedarii and H. truncatum present on the same mtDNA lineage as H. marginatum rufipes. Thus, individuals with morphology of H. dromedarii and H. truncatum are indistinguishable from H. marginatum rufipes on the basis of mtDNA. Multiple copies of ITS-2 were subsequently cloned and sequenced for a subset of individuals from the mtDNA phylogeny, representing both 'normal' and 'putative hybrid' individuals. Very low sequence divergence (0.3%) was observed within 'normal' individuals of both H. dromedarii and H. truncatum relative to the 'putative hybrid' individuals (6 and 2.7%, respectively). The pattern of intra-individual variation in ITS-2 within 'putative hybrid' individuals, particularly in H. dromedarii, strongly suggests that gene flow has occurred among these Hyalomma species, but no indication of this is given by the morphology of the individuals.

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