The ecotopes and evolution of triatomine bugs (triatominae) and their associated trypanosomes

Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz. Jul-Aug 2000;95(4):557-65. doi: 10.1590/s0074-02762000000400019.


Triatomine bug species such as Microtriatoma trinidadensis, Eratyrus mucronatus, Belminus herreri, Panstrongylus lignarius, and Triatoma tibiamaculata are exquisitely adapted to specialist niches. This suggests a long evolutionary history, as well as the recent dramatic spread a few eclectic, domiciliated triatomine species. Virtually all species of the genus Rhodnius are primarily associated with palms. The genus Panstrongylus is predominantly associated with burrows and tree cavities and the genus Triatoma with terrestrial rocky habitats or rodent burrows. Two major sub-divisions have been defined within the species Trypanosoma cruzi, as T. cruzi 1 (Z1) and T. cruzi 2 (Z2). The affinities of a third group (Z3) are uncertain. Host and habitat associations lead us to propose that T. cruzi 1 (Z1) has evolved in an arboreal, palm tree habitat with the triatomine tribe Rhodniini, in association with the opossum Didelphis. Similarly we propose that T. cruzi (Z2) and Z3 evolved in a terrestrial habitat in burrows and in rocky locations with the triatomine tribe Triatomini, in association with edentates, and/or possibly ground dwelling marsupials. Both sub-divisions of T. cruzi may have been contemporary in South America up to 65 million years ago. Alternatively, T. cruzi 2 (Z2) may have evolved more recently from T. cruzi 1 (Z1) by host transfers into rodents, edentates, and primates. We have constructed a molecular phylogeny of haematophagous vectors, including triatomine bugs, which suggests that faecal transmission of trypanosomes may be the ancestral route. A molecular clock phylogeny suggests that Rhodnius and Triatoma diverged before the arrival, about 40 million years ago, of bats and rodents into South America.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Australia
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Chagas Disease / transmission
  • Disease Reservoirs
  • Ecosystem*
  • Genotype
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Insect Vectors / genetics*
  • Nesting Behavior
  • Phylogeny
  • Rhodnius / parasitology
  • South America
  • Triatominae / genetics*
  • Triatominae / parasitology
  • Trypanosoma cruzi / genetics*
  • Trypanosoma cruzi / isolation & purification