Mississippi State University
Varela-Stokes, Andrea S.
King, Jonas G.
Paddock, Christopher D.
Date of Degree
Dissertation - Open Access
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology
The recent discovery of Amblyomma maculatum sensu lato (s. l.) ticks in southern Arizona has renewed discussions around species designations for members of the Amblyomma maculatum tick group. Amblyomma maculatum s. l. from Arizona appear to be morphologically intermediate between A. maculatum sensu stricto (s. s.) and A. triste s. s. At present there is no conclusive species designation for the ticks from Arizona. My research focused on analyzing the systematics of both A. maculatum s. l. and Rickettsia parkeri, a common bacterial pathogen transmitted by these ticks.
In the laboratory, A. maculatum s. l. from Arizona and A. maculatum s. s. from Georgia readily mated on experimental animals to produce F1 hybrid ticks; there was no difference in fertility with these two populations when compared with homologous populations. However, the F1 hybrids produced during these experiments exhibited diminished fitness and did not produce a viable F2 generation. These results suggest that A. maculatum s. l. and A. maculatum s. s. represent separate biological species.
Results of the crossbreeding experiment conflict with recent genetic analyses of A. maculatum s. l. and A. maculatum s. s. suggesting they are a single species. Thus, I developed and optimized 14 microsatellite loci that amplify both A. maculatum s. s. and A. maculatum s. l. These novel microsatellite markers can be used in future analyses of A. maculatum s. l. and A. maculatum s. s. to further test for conspecificity between the two.
I also investigated the genetic relationships within geographically distinct R. parkeri strains through development and implementation of a multi-locus sequence typing analysis. I showed that while there is no consistent genetic delineation of strains isolated from A. maculatum s. l. versus A. maculatum s. s., there is a subset of R. parkeri strains from A. maculatum s. l. that appear to represent an intermediate genotype between the North and South American strains. While the biological causes for these results are not immediately clear, coevolution of R. parkeri and A. maculatum s. l. may account for the detection of the intermediate genotype only found in association with A. maculatum s. l.
E Allerdice, Michelle E.J., "Systematics and population structure of Amblyomma maculatum group ticks and Rickettsia parkeri, an emerging human pathogen in southern Arizona, USA" (2021). Theses and Dissertations. 5371.