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Description and characterization of questing hard tick, Dermacentor steini (Acari: Ixodidae) in Malaysia based on phenotypic and genotypic traits

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Identifying certain species of Dermacentor ticks in Malaysia is challenging as there is no comprehensive work on their systematics and lack of specific taxonomic keys. In this study, we described and characterized D. steini ticks collected from a forest reserve in the vicinity of the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia using integrated phenotypic and genotypic traits. In total two males and three females of questing D. steini ticks were morphologically identified using specific illustrated taxonomic keys based on their special characters. Further confirmation and characterization of the tick species were then examined using PCR, followed by sequencing partial mitochondrial 16S rDNA gene (mt-rrs). Clustering analysis based on mt-rrs was carried out by constructing neighbor-joining tree topology to clarify the genetic variation of local D. steini. Based on external morphological characterizations, all ticks were successfully identified down to the species as adult D. steini. The molecular traits based on phylogenetic tree provide very strong support for the monophyletic clade of D. steini including high percentages of similarity (97–100%) with available sequences in GenBank. Furthermore, a low intraspecific variation (4%) among the species of D. steini was observed but it was genetically different from other Dermacentor species with high interspecific value (8–15%). These findings produced the first genotypic data of D. steini using 16S rDNA gene which confirmed the presence of this species in Malaysia. Moreover, this study supports the taxonomic status of local D. steini and adds to the knowledge of accurate identification of ticks.

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The authors would like to thank the Director-General of Health, Malaysia for his permission to publish this article. Our gratitude is also dedicated to the Director-General of Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) for the approval to conduct fieldwork for the collection of ticks. We wish to thank staff of Acarology Unit, Institute for Medical Research for their assistance in the field. The study was supported by Ministry of Health Grant (NMRR ID: 18-229-40116; 18-031).

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Correspondence to F. C. L. Ernieenor.

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Ernieenor, F.C.L., Apanaskevich, D.A., Ernna, G. et al. Description and characterization of questing hard tick, Dermacentor steini (Acari: Ixodidae) in Malaysia based on phenotypic and genotypic traits. Exp Appl Acarol 80, 137–149 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10493-019-00439-4

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  • Dermacentor steini
  • Mitochondrial 16S rDNA gene
  • Genotypic
  • Malaysia