Comparative mtDNA phylogeographic patterns reveal marked differences in population genetic structure between generalist and specialist ectoparasites of the African penguin (Spheniscus demersus)
To address factors affecting genetic diversity and dispersal of ectoparasites, we compared mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) population genetic structures of the generalist soft tick Ornithodoros capensis to the more host-specific nest flea Parapsyllus humboldti. A total of 103 ticks and 92 fleas were sampled at five distinct South African island/mainland African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) colonies. With its wide host range, O. capensis showed no evidence of significant cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) mtDNA population differentiation among the five sampling sites (φst = 0.00 ± 0.004; p = 0.80), as well as a higher level of genetic diversity (π = 0.8% ± 0.06%) when compared to P. humboldti. In contrast, the flea showed significant population structure among most of the same sampling sites (φst = 0.22 ± 0.11; p ≤ 0.05) and a lower level of genetic diversity (π = 0.2% ± 0.01%). Our findings suggest that despite both parasites being mostly nest bound, O. capensis have few barriers to dispersal among island and mainland colonies. However, P. humboldti are more dependent on the African penguin for dispersal and thus have more impediments to gene flow among the same colonies. These findings broadly support the SGVH (specialist generalist variation hypothesis) and provide the first evidence for this hypothesis in parasites restricted to seabird colonies.
KeywordsOrnithodoros capensis Parapsyllus humboldti South Africa Specialist generalist variation hypothesis Population structure Ectoparasite
We thank the managers and fieldworkers at CapeNature, South African National Parks and the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) for assisting with the specimen collection. MPAE was awarded a scholarship from the Chilean National Scholarship Program for Graduate Studies (Becas-Chile) of the National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT).
This work was supported by the International Penguin and Marine Mammal Foundation, the National Research Foundation and Stellenbosch University.
Compliance with ethical standards
Ethical approval was obtained from Stellenbosch University Animal Ethics Committee (SU-ACUD15-00114) who followed the South African National Standard (SANS) for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes (SANS 10386:2008).
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.
- Boyd EM (1951) The external parasites of birds: a review. Wilson Bull 63:363–369Google Scholar
- Duffy DC (1988) Ticks among the seabirds. Living Bird Q 7:8–13Google Scholar
- Folmer O, Black M, Hoeh W, Lutz R, Vrijenhoek R (1994) DNA primers for amplification of mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I from diverse metazoan invertebrates. Mol Mar Biol Biotechnol 3:294–299Google Scholar
- Jordan K (1942) On Parapsyllus and some closely related genera of Siphonaptera. Eos 18:7–29Google Scholar
- Jurik M (1974) Bionomics of fleas in bird’s nests in the territory of Czechoslovakia. Acta Sc Nat Brno 8:1–54Google Scholar
- Li S, Jovelin R, Yoshiga T, Tanaka R, Cutter AD (2014) Specialist versus generalist life histories and nucleotide diversity in Caenorhabditis nematodes. Proc R Soc Lond B 281:2013–2858Google Scholar
- Marshall AG (1981) The ecology of ectoparasitic insects. Academic, London; New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Segerman J (1995) Siphonaptera of southern Africa. Handbook for the identification of fleas. Publications of the South African Institute for Medical Research, No. 57, JohannesburgGoogle Scholar
- Sonenshine DE (1991) Life cycles of ticks. In: Sonenshine DE (ed) Biology of ticks. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 51–66Google Scholar
- Sonenshine DE (1993) Ecology of nidicolous ticks. In: Sonenshine DE (ed) Biology of ticks. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 66–91Google Scholar