Vertebrate host specificity of wild–caught blackflies revealed by mitochondrial DNA in blood

Björn Malmqvist, Darius Strasevicius, Olof Hellgren, Peter H. Adler, Staffan Bensch

Abstract

Blood–feeding blackflies (Diptera: Simuliidae) transmit pathogens, harass vertebrate hosts and may cause lethal injuries in attacked victims, but with traditional methods it has proved difficult to identify their hosts. By matching mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences in blood collected from engorged blackflies with stored sequences in the GenBank database, relationships between 17 blackfly species and 25 species of vertebrate hosts were revealed. Our results demonstrate a predominance of large hosts and marked discrimination between blackflies using either avian or mammalian hosts. Such information is of vital interest in studies of disease transmission, coevolutionary relationships, population ecology and wildlife management.

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