Background: Panstrongylus rufotuberculatus (Hemiptera-Reduviidae) is a triatomine species with a wide geographic distribution and a broad phenotypic variability. In some countries, this species is found infesting and colonising domiciliary ecotopes representing an epidemiological risk factor as a vector of Trypanosoma cruzi, etiological agent of Chagas disease. In spite of this, little is known about P. rufotuberculatus genetic diversity.
Methods: Cytogenetic studies and DNA sequence analyses of one nuclear (ITS-2) and two mitochondrial DNA sequences (cyt b and coI) were carried out in P. rufotuberculatus individuals collected in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico. Moreover, a geometric morphometrics study was applied to Bolivian, Colombian, Ecuadorian and French Guiana samples.
Objectives: To explore the genetic and phenetic diversity of P. rufotuberculatus from different countries, combining chromosomal studies, DNA sequence analyses and geometric morphometric comparisons.
Findings: We found two chromosomal groups differentiated by the number of X chromosomes and the chromosomal position of the ribosomal DNA clusters. In concordance, two main morphometric profiles were detected, clearly separating the Bolivian sample from the other ones. Phylogenetic DNA analyses showed that both chromosomal groups were closely related to each other and clearly separated from the remaining Panstrongylus species. High nucleotide divergence of cyt b and coI fragments were observed among P. rufotuberculatus samples from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico (Kimura 2-parameter distances higher than 9%).
Main conclusions: Chromosomal and molecular analyses supported that the two chromosomal groups could represent different closely related species. We propose that Bolivian individuals constitute a new Panstrongylus species, being necessary a detailed morphological study for its formal description. The clear morphometric discrimination based on the wing venation pattern suggests such morphological description might be conclusive.