Geometric morphometrics to distinguish the cryptic species Anopheles minimus and An. harrisoni in malaria hot spot villages, western Thailand

Med Vet Entomol. 2020 Nov 18. doi: 10.1111/mve.12493. Online ahead of print.


Anopheles minimus Theobald 1901 and An. harrisoni Harbach & Manguin 2007 belong to the same species complex. They are morphologically similar and can exist in sympatry but have blood host preferences. The most accurate method for their identification is based on molecular techniques. Here, we measure the level of interspecific discrimination by geometric morphometry. Sixty-seven An. minimus and 22 An. harrisoni specimens were selected based on their morphological integrity and confirmed by identification polymerase chain reaction of internal transcribed spacer 2. These samples were used as reference data allowing for a morphometric identification based on geometric shape. Despite size overlap between the two species, there was a significant shape divergence allowing for differentiation of An. minimus and An. harrisoni with 90% accuracy. An intraspecific study of An. minimus showed a summer period associated to the reducing of wing size, which did not influence the shape-based differentiation of An. harrisoni. Wing venation geometry can be used to distinguish between these cryptic species mainly based on shaped divergence. This study suggests that geometric morphometrics represent a convenient low-cost method to complement morphological identification, especially concerning damaged specimens, i.e., insects having accidentally lost the anatomical features allowing a reliable morphological identification.

Keywords: An. minimus; Anopheles harrisoni; geometric morphometric; species complex.