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Molecular Characterization of Anopheles algeriensis Theobald, 1903 (Diptera: Culicidae) Populations from Europe

Anopheles algeriensis Theobald, 1903, considered a competent vector of Plasmodium parasites, is a mosquito species widely distributed in the Mediterranean area but rare in Northern and Central Europe. The disappearance of its suitable breeding sites in Italy is having a detrimental effect on the occurrence of this species once common along the Southern coasts and on the islands. Recently, molecular investigations have renewed interest in this species, highlighting a genetic heterogeneity among European populations. In this study, An. algeriensis populations from Italy, Germany, Romania, and Sweden were analyzed by molecular typing of the intergenic transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2). The mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) was also analyzed from specimens collected in Southern Italy. With the aim of investigating the population structure of this species, the obtained data were compared to all publicly available ITS2 and COI sequences of An. algeriensis, adding specimens from Spain and Portugal. The analyses of both markers indicate a split between Iberian populations (Spain for ITS2 and Spain/Portugal for COI) and those from the rest of Europe, revealing two cryptic species. The analysis of the COI barcode revealed a third clade representing a cryptic species present in Danube Delta (Romania). The high levels of genetic divergence among the clades of An. algeriensis indicate that this taxon represents a species complex, potentially harboring several distinct cryptic species.



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