Molecular cophylogenetic relationships between European bats and their ectoparasitic mites (Acari, Spinturnicidae)

Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2009 May;51(2):227-37. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2009.02.005. Epub 2009 Feb 21.


Cospeciation between host-parasite species is generally thought to result in mirror-image congruent phylogenies. Incongruence can be explained by mechanisms such as host switching, duplication, failure to speciate and sorting events. To investigate the level of association in the host-parasite relationship between Spinturnicid mites and their bat hosts, we constructed the phylogenetic tree of the genus Spinturnix (Acari, Mesostigmata) and compared it to the host phylogeny. We sequenced 938bp of the mitochondrial 16S rDNA and Cytochrome Oxydase subunit I (COI) genes among eleven morphospecies of Spinturnix collected on 20 European Vespertilionid and Rhinolophid bat species. Phylogenetic reconstruction of hosts and parasites showed statistical evidence for cospeciation and suggested that their evolutionary history involved also failure to speciate events and host switches. The latter seem to be mainly promoted by similar roosting habits of the host. As currently understood, host associations of Spinturnicid mites likely results from a complex interaction between the phylogenetic history of the host and the behaviour and the ecology of both parasite and host.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Chiroptera / genetics*
  • Chiroptera / parasitology
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Europe
  • Genes, Mitochondrial
  • Genetic Speciation*
  • Haplotypes
  • Host-Parasite Interactions / genetics*
  • Mites / genetics*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Species Specificity


  • DNA, Mitochondrial