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Evolution. 2010 Sep;64(9):2653-63. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2010.01001.x.

Uncoordinated phylogeography of Borrelia burgdorferi and its tick vector, Ixodes scapularis.

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Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Vector-borne microbes necessarily co-occur with their hosts and vectors, but the degree to which they share common evolutionary or biogeographic histories remains unexplored. We examine the congruity of the evolutionary and biogeographic histories of the bacterium and vector of the Lyme disease system, the most prevalent vector-borne disease in North America. In the eastern and midwestern US, Ixodes scapularis ticks are the primary vectors of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Our phylogeographic and demographic analyses of the 16S mitochondrial rDNA suggest that northern I. scapularis populations originated from very few migrants from the southeastern US that expanded rapidly in the Northeast and subsequently in the Midwest after the recession of the Pleistocene ice sheets. Despite this historical gene flow, current tick migration is restricted even between proximal sites within regions. In contrast, B. burgdorferi suffers no barriers to gene flow within the northeastern and midwestern regions but shows clear interregional migration barriers. Despite the intimate association of B. burgdorferi and I. scapularis, the population structure, evolutionary history, and historical biogeography of the pathogen are all contrary to its arthropod vector. In the case of Lyme disease, movements of infected vertebrate hosts may play a larger role in the contemporary expansion and homogenization of the pathogen than the movement of tick vectors whose populations continue to bear the historical signature of climate-induced range shifts.

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