Morphological variability and genetic identity in Rhinoestrus spp. causing horse nasal myiasis

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Larvae of Rhinoestrus purpureus (Brauer) and Rhinoestrus usbekistanicus Gan (Diptera: Oestridae) cause nasal myiases of equids. During a recent epidemiological survey in southern Italy some morphological and taxonomical doubts arose concerning the identification of Rhinoestrus third stage larvae on the basis of the features of the posterior spiracles and the distribution of dorsal spines on the third segment. Four different morphotypes were retrieved: R. usbekistanicus-like, R. purpureus-like and two morphotypes with shared features. The genes encoding for the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I (COI) and for the ribosomal subunits 16S and 28S of the four morphotypes of Rhinoestrus were investigated to determine whether they belonged to a single taxon or they displayed genetic differences indicative of more than one species. The three genes showed a very low level of sequence variation (COI 0–0.43%, 16S 0–1.45%, 28S 0–0.23%) falling within the intraspecific ranges previously described for Oestridae species. Finally, the peritreme features and the spinulation of the third segment of the four morphotypes examined could not be used to differentiate the two species.

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