Complex patterns of genetic variability in populations of the New World screwworm fly revealed by mitochondrial DNA markers

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Abstract

Cochliomyia hominivorax (Coquerel) (Diptera: Calliphoridae), the New World screwworm fly, is an important agent of traumatic myiasis, which is endemic in the Neotropical region and which has great economic impact on the development of the livestock industry. International efforts have been aimed at designing programmes to control and eradicate this species from endemic areas. Thorough knowledge of the population genetics of an insect pest is a fundamental component to ensuring the success of a pest management strategy because it enables the determination of an appropriate geographic scale for carrying out effective treatments. This study undertook an analysis of mtDNA polymerase chain reaction-restricted fragment length polymorphism (PCR-RFLP) in 34 populations of C. hominivorax from 10 countries, encompassing almost all the current distribution of the species. Results showed high levels of mitochondrial DNA variability (π = 2.9%) and a complex pattern of population genetic structure for this species. Significant population structure (>st = 0.5234) and low variability were found in Caribbean populations, suggesting that, in general, islands constitute independent evolutionary entities connected by restricted gene flow. By contrast, high variability and low, but significant, differentiation was found among mainland populations (>st = 0.0483), which could not be attributed to geographic distance. Several processes may be acting to maintain the observed patterns, with different implications for establishing control programmes.

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