UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Population genetic structure of the Culex pipiens (Diptera: Culicidae) complex, vectors of West Nile virus, in five habitats Joyce, Andrea L; Melese, Etienne; Ha, Phuong-Thao; Inman, Allan


Background: The Culex pipiens complex consists of several morphologically similar, closely related species. In the United States, Cx. pipiens L. is distributed North of 39° latitude, while Cx. quinquefasciatus Say occurs South of 36° latitude; a hybrid zone occurs between these two latitudes including in the Central Valley of California. Members of the Cx. pipiens complex and their hybrids are vectors for West Nile virus (WNv). Hybrid offspring of Cx. pipiens and Cx. quinquefasciatus have been found to have enhanced transmission rates of WNv over those of pure populations of each species. We investigated whether hybrids of Cx. pipiens and Cx. quinquefasciatus occurred more frequently in any of five habitats which were dairies, rural, suburban, and urban areas, and wetlands. In addition, the proportion of alleles unique to Cx. quinquefasciatus and Cx. pipiens found in each habitat-associated population were determined. Methods: Amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers were used to compare the population structure of the Cx. pipiens complex from each habitat to geographically distant populations considered pure Cx. pipiens and Cx. quinquefasciatus. Structure analyses were used to assign individuals to either Cx. pipiens, Cx. quinquefasciatus, or hybrids of the Cx. pipiens complex. The ancestry of hybrids (F1, F2, or backcrossed) in relation to the two parent populations was estimated for each Central Valley population. Loci unique to the pure Cx. pipiens population and the pure Cx. quinquefasciatus population were determined. The proportion of loci unique to Cx. pipiens and Cx. quinquefasciatus populations were subsequently determined for each population from the five Merced habitats and from the Oroville California population. The unique loci found in Merced populations and not in Cx. pipiens or Cx. quinquefasciatus were also determined. A principal components analysis was run, as was an analysis to determine loci under putative selection. Results: The Structure Harvester analysis found K = 3, and the Culex pipiens complex mosquitoes formed a genetic cluster distinct from Cx. quinquefasciatus and Cx. pipiens. Individuals collected from each habitat were nearly all hybrids. However, Cx. pipiens complex collected near dairies had more individuals categorized as Cx. pipiens than collections from the other habitats. None of the mosquitoes collected in Merced or Oroville were considered pure Cx. quinquefasciatus. Significant genetic divergence was detected among the Cx. pipiens complex from the five habitats in Merced; Cx. pipiens complex mosquitoes from dairies were divergent from the urban and suburban populations. New Hybrids analysis found that individuals from all five Merced habitat-associated populations and the population from Oroville were primarily categorized as hybrids backcrossed to the Cx. pipiens population. Finally, all five habitat-associated populations shared more alleles with Cx. pipiens than with Cx. quinquefasciatus, even though the pure Cx. quinquefasciatus population was more geographically proximate to Merced. Results from the principal component analysis, and the occurrence of several unique loci in Merced populations, suggest that Cx. pipiens molestus may also occur in the habitats sampled. Conclusions: Nearly all mosquitoes in the five habitats in Merced in the Central Valley of California area were hybrids of Cx. pipiens and Cx. quinquefasciatus, consisting of hybrids backcrossed to Cx. pipiens. Habitat-associated mosquitoes collected near dairies had more individuals consisting of pure Cx. pipiens, and no mosquitoes from Merced or Oroville CA classified as pure Cx. quinquefasciatus. The genetic distances among Cx. pipiens and Cx. quinquefasciatus, and hybrid populations agree with previous studies using other molecular markers. Cx. pipiens hybrids in Merced shared more alleles with Cx. pipiens than Cx. quinquefasciatus which was unexpected, since Merced is geographically closer to the northern limit of Cx. quinquefasciatus distribution. Culex pipiens molestus may occur in more habitats in the Central Valley than previously suspected, which warrants further investigation. Future studies could investigate the vector competence of hybrids backcrossed to either Cx. pipiens or Cx. quinquefasciatus parent for their ability to transmit West Nile virus.

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