Vieites-Blanco, C., Paulo, O.S., Marabuto, E. & Lema, M. (2020) Genetic variability on worldwide populations of the scale insect Pulvinariella mesembryanthemi.Biological Invasions, 22, 735-748. DOI:10.1007/s10530-019-02125-3 (IF2020 3,133; Q1 Biodiversity Conservation)
The South African scale insect Pulvinariella mesembryanthemi was introduced worldwide in several coastal areas with Mediterranean climate, probably through infested plants of Carpobrotus sp. Its high host specificity and its capacity to produce severe damages in the invasive Carpobrotus sp. plants makes this insect a potential biocontrol agent. To test the efficiency and host range of insects used for biocontrol, population genetic studies can help to unravel cryptic complexes and intraspecific diversity. In this study we performed a genetic analysis including native and exotic populations of P. mesembryanthemi, through Sanger sequencing of mitochondrial (cytochrome c oxidase I, COI) and ribosomal (D2–D3 expansion segments of the large subunit ribosomal RNA gene 28S) gene fragments. Accidentally, an endosymbiont was sequenced with one of the pair of primers used. The exotic populations of the insect did not show any variability among populations for both studied genes, which suggest a common origin of all studied introduced populations. Contrastingly, native populations showed high variability and seemed to be a cryptic species complex. Moreover, the Gauteng populations (from NE South Africa) were phylogenetically the closest to the exotic ones, suggesting that the exotic populations could be original from somewhere near this area. An endosymbiont of P. mesembryanthemi was detected, and the sequenced coxA gene was similar to that of the Rickettsiaceae family from the α-Proteobacteria, and close to other insect endosymbionts. To the best of our knowledge, this was the first mention of this endosymbiont in P. mesembryanthemi, although α-Proteobacteria endosymbionts have been reported for other sap-sucking insects.