High degree of mitochondrial gene heterogeneity in the bat tick species Ixodes vespertilionis, I. ariadnae and I. simplex from Eurasia

Sándor Hornok, Agustín Estrada-Peña, Jeno Kontschán, Olivier Plantard, Bernd Kunz, Andrei D. Mihalca, Adora Thabah, Snežana Tomanović, Jelena Burazerović, Nóra Takács, Tamás Görföl, Péter Estók, Vuong Tan Tu, Krisztina Szoke, Isabel G.Fernández De Mera, José De La Fuente, Mamoru Takahashi, Takeo Yamauchi, Ai Takano

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Background: Phylogeographical studies allow precise genetic comparison of specimens, which were collected over large geographical ranges and belong to the same or closely related animal species. These methods have also been used to compare ticks of veterinary-medical importance. However, relevant data are missing in the case of ixodid ticks of bats, despite (1) the vast geographical range of both Ixodes vespertilionis and Ixodes simplex, and (2) the considerable uncertainty in their taxonomy, which is currently unresolvable by morphological clues. Methods: In the present study 21 ticks were selected from collections or were freshly removed from bats or cave walls in six European and four Asian countries. The DNA was extracted and PCRs were performed to amplify part of the cytochrome oxidase I (COI), 16S and 12S rDNA genes, followed by sequencing for identification and molecular-phylogenetic comparison. Results: No morphological differences were observed between Ixodes vespertilionis specimens from Spain and from other parts of Europe, but corresponding genotypes had only 94.6 % COI sequence identity. An I. vespertilionis specimen collected in Vietnam was different both morphologically and genetically (i.e. with only 84.1 % COI sequence identity in comparison with I. vespertilionis from Europe). Two ticks (collected in Vietnam and in Japan) formed a monophyletic clade and shared morphological features with I. ariadnae, recently described and hitherto only reported in Europe. In addition, two Asiatic specimens of I. simplex were shown to differ markedly from European genotypes of the same species. Phylogenetic relationships of ticks showed similar clustering patterns with those of their associated bat host species. Conclusions: Although all three ixodid bat tick species evaluated in the present study appear to be widespread in Eurasia, they exhibit pronounced genetic differences. Data of this study also reflect that I. vespertilionis may represent a species complex.

Original languageEnglish
Article number457
JournalParasites and Vectors
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sep 17 2015



  • 12S rRNA
  • 16S rRNA
  • Chiroptera
  • Cytochrome oxidase gene
  • Ixodes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases

Cite this

Hornok, S., Estrada-Peña, A., Kontschán, J., Plantard, O., Kunz, B., Mihalca, A. D., Thabah, A., Tomanović, S., Burazerović, J., Takács, N., Görföl, T., Estók, P., Tu, V. T., Szoke, K., De Mera, I. G. F., De La Fuente, J., Takahashi, M., Yamauchi, T., & Takano, A. (2015). High degree of mitochondrial gene heterogeneity in the bat tick species Ixodes vespertilionis, I. ariadnae and I. simplex from Eurasia. Parasites and Vectors, 8(1), [457]. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13071-015-1056-2