ABSTRACT

Members of the flea family Pulicidae have been the focus of many studies due to their significance as diseases vectors of medical and veterinary importance and their cosmopolitan distribution. They often exhibit variation in morphological features that can make correct species identification and management challenging. This may also apply to Xenopsylla brasiliensis (Baker, 1904), an important plague vector. In the current study, we aimed to provide genetic tools for reliable species identification using a DNA barcoding approach. A total of 73 flea specimens was collected from a native host (Namaqua rock mouse, Micaelamys namaquensis) in South Africa and identified morphologically. In addition, we took measurements of 7 morphological characteristics. Subsequently, we successfully generated barcodes of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) gene for X. brasiliensis. We validated this approach by comparing our data to COI sequences from Rwandan X. brasiliensis. While sequences from both regions suggested a close relationship between the 2 X. brasiliensis populations, both haplotype and nucleotide diversity were substantially larger for the South African specimens. This may be attributed to human-assisted spread, differences in habitat, and/or host species sampled and merits further study in the future.

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