Molecular characterization of Ribosomal DNA (ITS2) of hard ticks in Iran: understanding the conspecificity of Dermacentor marginatus and D. niveus

BMC Res Notes. 2020 Oct 9;13(1):478. doi: 10.1186/s13104-020-05326-5.


Objectives: Hard ticks (Acari: Ixodidae) are ectoparasites of medical and veterinary importance. They are obligate blood-feeding vectors with the ability to transmit a wide variety of pathogens. Standard morphological keys are normally used for the identification of tick species. However, considering the importance of accurate species identification and the determination of bio-ecological characteristics of species, relying on morphological keys alone can be questionable. In this study, two DNA fragments (ITS2 and COI) were selected for phylogenetic evaluation of Iranian hard tick species belonging to the genera Dermacentor, Hyalomma, and Rhipicephalus.

Results: 1229 specimens of Dermacentor marginatus, D. niveus, Hyalomma anatolicum, Rhipicephalus bursa, and R. sanguineus s.l constituting 11 populations were collected from three different climatic and zoogeographical zones in Iran. Morphological studies revealed notable differences in important morphological characteristics between different populations of D. marginatus. The results of ITS2 sequence analysis provided additional evidence which supports the conspecificity of D. niveus and D. marginatus. Contrary to this finding, the sequence analysis of COI and phylogeny favored the separation of the two species. Given the greater importance of COI in identifying and discriminating species, a possibility heterospecificity between the two species should be considered.

Keywords: COI; Dermacentor; ITS2; Ixodidae; Molecular systematics.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA, Ribosomal
  • Dermacentor* / genetics
  • Iran
  • Ixodidae*
  • Phylogeny


  • DNA, Ribosomal