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Morphological and molecular description of Ixodes woyliei n. sp. (Ixodidae) with consideration for co-extinction with its critically endangered marsupial host

Ash, A.ORCID: 0000-0001-8218-7048, Elliot, A., Godfrey, S., Burmej, H., Abdad, M.Y., Northover, A., Wayne, A., Morris, K., Clode, P., Lymbery, A.ORCID: 0000-0002-0542-3446 and Thompson, R.C.A. (2017) Morphological and molecular description of Ixodes woyliei n. sp. (Ixodidae) with consideration for co-extinction with its critically endangered marsupial host. Parasites & Vectors, 10 (1). Article number: 70.

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Taxonomic identification of ticks obtained during a longitudinal survey of the critically endangered marsupial, Bettongia penicillata Gray, 1837 (woylie, brush-tailed bettong) revealed a new species of Ixodes Latrielle, 1795. Here we provide morphological data for the female and nymphal life stages of this novel species (Ixodes woyliei n. sp.), in combination with molecular characterisation using the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 gene (cox1). In addition, molecular characterisation was conducted on several described Ixodes species and used to provide phylogenetic context.

Ixodes spp. ticks were collected from the two remaining indigenous B. penicillata populations in south-western Australia. Of 624 individual B. penicillata sampled, 290 (47%) were host to ticks of the genus Ixodes; specifically I. woyliei n. sp., I. australiensis Neumann, 1904, I. myrmecobii Roberts, 1962, I. tasmani Neumann, 1899 and I. fecialis Warburton & Nuttall, 1909. Of these, 123 (42%) were host to the newly described I. woyliei n. sp. In addition, 268 individuals from sympatric marsupial species (166 Trichosurus vulpecula hypoleucus Wagner, 1855 (brushtail possum), 89 Dasyurus geoffroii Gould, 1841 (Western quoll) and 13 Isoodon obesulus fusciventer Gray, 1841 (southern brown bandicoot)) were sampled for ectoparasites and of these, I. woyliei n. sp. was only found on two I. o. fusciventer.

Morphological and molecular data have confirmed the first new Australian Ixodes tick species described in over 50 years, Ixodes woyliei n. sp. Based on the long-term data collected, it appears this tick has a strong predilection for B. penicillata, with 42% of Ixodes infections on this host identified as I. woyliei n. sp. The implications for this host-parasite relationship are unclear but there may be potential for a future co-extinction event. In addition, new molecular data have been generated for collected specimens of I. australiensis, I. tasmani and museum specimens of I. victoriensis Nuttall, 1916, which for the first time provides molecular support for the subgenus Endopalpiger Schulze, 1935 as initially defined. These genetic data provide essential information for future studies relying on genotyping for species identification or for those tackling the phylogenetic relationships of Australian Ixodes species.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: BioMed Central
Copyright: © 2017 The Author(s).
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