Insect trypanosomatids in Papua New Guinea: high endemism and diversity

Int J Parasitol. 2019 Dec;49(13-14):1075-1086. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2019.09.004. Epub 2019 Nov 14.


The extreme biological diversity of Oceanian archipelagos has long stimulated research in ecology and evolution. However, parasitic protists in this geographic area remained neglected and no molecular analyses have been carried out to understand the evolutionary patterns and relationships with their hosts. Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a biodiversity hotspot containing over 5% of the world's biodiversity in less than 0.5% of the total land area. In the current work, we examined insect heteropteran hosts collected in PNG for the presence of trypanosomatid parasites. The diversity of insect flagellates was analysed, to our knowledge for the first time, east of Wallace's Line, one of the most distinct biogeographic boundaries of the world. Out of 907 investigated specimens from 138 species and 23 families of the true bugs collected in eight localities, 135 (15%) were infected by at least one trypanosomatid species. High species diversity of captured hosts correlated with high diversity of detected trypanosomatids. Of 46 trypanosomatid Typing Units documented in PNG, only eight were known from other geographic locations, while 38 TUs (~83%) have not been previously encountered. The widespread trypanosomatid TUs were found in both widely distributed and endemic/sub-endemic insects. Approximately one-third of the endemic trypanosomatid TUs were found in widely distributed hosts, while the remaining species were confined to endemic and sub-endemic insects. The TUs from PNG form clades with conspicuous host-parasite coevolutionary patterns, as well as those with a remarkable lack of this trait. In addition, our analysis revealed new members of the subfamilies Leishmaniinae and Strigomonadinae, potentially representing new genera of trypanosomatids.

Keywords: Biodiversity; Coevolution; Host specificity; Hotspot; Phylogeny; Trypanosomatidae; Wallace's line.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biodiversity*
  • Biological Evolution
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Insecta / parasitology*
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Phylogeny
  • Trypanosomatina / classification*
  • Trypanosomatina / genetics
  • Trypanosomatina / isolation & purification*