The Unequal Taxonomic Signal of Mosquito Wing Cells

Insects. 2021 Apr 21;12(5):376. doi: 10.3390/insects12050376.


Accurate identification of mosquito species is critically important for monitoring and controlling the impact of human diseases they transmit. Here, we investigate four mosquito species: Aedes aegypti, Ae. albopictus, Ae. scutellaris and Verrallina dux that co-occur in tropical and subtropical regions, and whose morphological similarity challenges their accurate identification, a crucial requirement in entomological surveillance programs. Previous publications reveal a clear taxonomic signal embedded in wing cell landmark configuration, as well as in the external contour of the wings. We explored this signal for internal cells of the wings as well, to determine whether internal cells could uniformly provide the same taxonomic information. For each cell to be tentatively assigned to its respective species, i.e., to measure the amount of its taxonomic information, we used the shape of its contour, rather than its size. We show that (i) the taxonomic signal of wing shape is not uniformly spread among internal cells of the wing, and (ii) the amount of taxonomic information of a given cell depends on the species under comparison. This unequal taxonomic signal of internal cells is not related to size, nor to apparent shape complexity. The strong taxonomic signal of some cells ensures that even partly damaged wings can be used to improve species recognition.

Keywords: Aedes aegypti; Aedes albopictus; Aedes scutellaris; Verrallina dux; geometric morphometrics; outlines.