Population analysis using the nuclear white gene detects Pliocene/Pleistocene lineage divergence within Anopheles nuneztovari in South America

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Anopheles (Nyssorhynchus) nuneztovari Gabaldón (Diptera: Culicidae), a locally important malaria vector in some regions of South America, has been hypothesized to consist of at least two cryptic incipient species. We investigated its phylogeographic structure in several South American localities to determine the number of lineages and levels of divergence using the nuclear white gene, a marker that detected two recently diverged genotypes in the primary Neotropical malaria vector Anopheles darlingiRoot. In An. nuneztovari, five distinct lineages (1–5) were elucidated: (1) populations from northeastern and central Amazonia; (2) populations from Venezuela east and west of the Andes; (3) populations from Colombia and Venezuela west of the Andes; (4) southeastern and western Amazonian Brazil populations, and (5) southeastern and western Amazonian Brazil and Bolivian populations. There was a large amount of genetic differentiation among these lineages. The deepest and earliest divergence was found between lineage 3 and lineages 1, 2 and 4, which probably accounts for the detection of lineage 3 in some earlier studies. The multiple lineages within Amazonia are partially congruent with previous mtDNA and ITS2 data, but were undetected in many earlier studies, probably because of their recent (Pleistocene) divergence and the differential mutation rates of the markers. The estimates for the five lineages, interpreted as recently evolved or incipient species, date to the Pleistocene and Pliocene. We hypothesize that the diversification in An. nuneztovari is the result of an interaction between the Miocene/Pliocene marine incursion and Pleistocene climatic changes leading to refugial isolation. The identification of cryptic lineages in An. nuneztovari could have a significant impact on local vector control measures.

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