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Morphometric wing characters as a tool for mosquito identification

Abstract

Background. Mosquitoes are responsible for the transmission of important infectious diseases, causing millions of deaths every year and endangering approximately 3 billion people around the world. As such, precise identification of mosquito species is crucial for an understanding of epidemiological patterns of disease transmission. Currently, the most common method of mosquito identification relies on morphological taxonomic keys, which do not always distinguish cryptic species. However, wing geometric morphometrics is a promising tool for the identification of vector mosquitoes, sibling and cryptic species included. This study therefore sought to accurately identify mosquito species from the three most epidemiologically important mosquito genera using wing morphometrics. Material and Methods. Twelve mosquito species from three epidemiologically important genera (Aedes, Anopheles and Culex) were collected and identified by taxonomic keys. Next, the right wing of each adult female mosquito was removed and photographed, and the coordinates of eighteen digitized landmarks at the intersections of wing veins were collected. The allometric influence was assessed, and canonical variate analysis and thin-plate splines were used for species identification. Cross-validated reclassification tests were performed for each individual, and a Neighbor Joining tree was constructed to illustrate species segregation patterns. The analyses were carried out and the graphs plotted with TpsUtil 1.29, TpsRelw 1.39, MorphoJ 1.02 and Past 2.17c. Results. Canonical variate analysis for Aedes, Anopheles and Culex genera showed three clear clusters in morphospace, correctly distinguishing the three mosquito genera, and pairwise cross-validated reclassification resulted in at least 99% accuracy; subgenera were also identified correctly with a mean accuracy of 96%, and in 88 of the 132 possible comparisons, species were identified with 100% accuracy after the data was subjected to reclassification. Discussion. Our results showed that Aedes, Culex and Anopheles were correctly distinguished by wing shape. For the lower hierarchical levels (subgenera and species), wing geometric morphometrics was also efficient, resulting in high reclassification scores. (AU)

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