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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 1995 Dec;4(4):361-5.

Discriminating between Ixodes ticks by means of mitochondrial DNA sequences.

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Department of Zoology, University of New Hampshire, Durham 03824, USA.


Ticks of the genus Ixodes have recently assumed prominence because they frequently serve as vectors of important zoonoses, including Lyme disease and babesiosis. The morphological characteristics that have been used in their identification often are ambiguous and are useful solely at a particular stage of development. Here we report the DNA sequence of the mitochondrially encoded 16S rRNA gene of nine different Ixodes ticks and an outgroup from another genus, Dermacentor. The sequences readily discriminate between these ticks. Samples of I. dammini from the northeastern and upper midwestern United States differ from southeastern I. scapularis at about 2% of the nucleotides. This difference is about half that separating other members of the I. ricinus group of species, but exceeds typical levels of intraspecific variation. Two major clades exist within the I. ricinus complex. One includes I. cookei, I. hexagonus, and I. angustus. The other includes I. persulcatus, I. pacificus, I. muris, I. ricinus, I. scapularis, and I. dammini. We conclude that mtDNA sequences are useful for unravelling the systematics of these important vectors of human disease.

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