A transposon-based genetic marker for conspecific identity within the Bactrocera dorsalis species complex

Sci Rep. 2024 Jan 22;14(1):1924. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-51068-2.


Here we describe a molecular approach to assess conspecific identity that relies on the comparison of an evolved mutated transposable element sequence and its genomic insertion site in individuals from closely related species. This was explored with the IFP2 piggyBac transposon, originally discovered in Trichoplusia ni as a 2472 bp functional element, that was subsequently found as mutated elements in seven species within the Bactrocera dorsalis species complex. In a B. dorsalis [Hendel] strain collected in Kahuku, Hawaii, a degenerate 2420 bp piggyBac sequence (pBacBd-Kah) having ~ 94.5% sequence identity to IFP2 was isolated, and it was reasoned that common species, or strains within species, should share the same evolved element and its precise genomic insertion site. To test this assumption, PCR using primers to pBacBd-Kah and adjacent genomic sequences was used to isolate and compare homologous sequences in strains of four sibling species within the complex. Three of these taxa, B. papayae, B. philippinensis, and B. invadens, were previously synonymized with B. dorsalis, and found to share nearly identical pBacBd-Kah homologous elements (> 99% nucleotide identity) within the identical insertion site consistent with conspecific species. The fourth species tested, B. carambolae, considered to be a closely related yet independent species sympatric with B. dorsalis, also shared the pBacBd-Kah sequence and insertion site in one strain from Suriname, while another divergent pBacBd-Kah derivative, closer in identity to IFP2, was found in individuals from French Guiana, Bangladesh and Malaysia. This data, along with the absence of pBacBd-Kah in distantly related Bactrocera, indicates that mutated descendants of piggyBac, as well as other invasive mobile elements, could be reliable genomic markers for common species identity.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bangladesh
  • DNA Primers
  • Genetic Markers
  • Humans
  • Tephritidae* / genetics


  • Genetic Markers
  • DNA Primers

Supplementary concepts

  • Bactrocera dorsalis