Differences in speciation progress in feather mites (Analgoidea) inhabiting the same host: the case of Zachvatkinia and Alloptes living on arctic and long-tailed skuas
Recent molecular phylogenetic analyses have revealed that some apparently oligoxenous feather mite species are in fact monoxenous cryptic species with little morphological differentiation. In this study we analyzed two species, Zachvatkinia isolata (Avenzoariidae) and Alloptes (Sternalloptes) stercorarii (Alloptidae) which prefer different parts of the plumage of two sister species of birds: arctic skua (Stercorarius parasiticus) and long-tailed skua (S. longicaudus) breeding on tundra in the High Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. Given that there are no reports about hybridization events between the host species, we expected that both skuas would have a species-specific acarofauna. The genetic distances among DNA-barcode sequences (COI and 28S rDNA), phylogenetic tree topologies, and haplotype networks of the COI sequences of mites suggested extensive gene flow in Z. isolata between and within populations inhabiting both skua species, whereas the Alloptes populations were host specific and sufficiently genetically separated as to warrant species-level status. The discrepancy in the genetic structure of Alloptes and Zachvatkinia populations suggests frequent but transient contacts between the two skua species in which the probability of mite exchange is much higher for Zachvatkinia, which is present in high numbers and inhabits exposed parts of primary flight feathers, than for the less abundant Alloptes that lives primarily in more protected and inaccessible parts of the plumage. We discuss the possible nature of these contacts between host species and the area(s) where they might take place. The star-like structures in the haplotype network as well as high haplotype diversity and low nucleotide diversity observed in Z. isolata are concordant with the known dispersal strategy of feather mites: vertical colonization of new host individuals followed by rapid growth of founder populations.
Authors: Dabert, Miroslawa, Coulson, Stephen J., Gwiazdowicz, Dariusz J., Moe, Børge, Hanssen, Sveinn Are, Biersma, Elisabeth M., Pilskog, Hanne E., Dabert, Jacek