Species of the genus Culicoides Latreille, 1809 (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) are mainly known as vectors of arboviruses such as bluetongue (BTV) and Schmallenberg (SBV). Among the known vectors, few species within the subgenus Culicoides Latreille, 1809 have been implicated in the transmission of BTV and SBV. Nevertheless, phylogenetic studies had revealed the presence of cryptic and undescribed species in Europe, raising questions about their vectorial role. A previous integrative study, associating morphology and barcode data, raised the hypothesis of the presence of undescribed species in Slovakia. The present study, combining morphological and molecular approaches, is aimed to support the hypothesis and a description of Culicoides bysta n. sp. is provided.
Series of male and female specimens were dissected and several of them were sequenced for the barcode region of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 gene (cox1). Bayesian inference phylogenetic analyses based on 72 cox1 sequences of the species belonging to the Pulicaris group of the subgenus Culicoides, were carried out and the frequencies of intra/interspecific variations were analyzed. The morphology of abundant material of the new species (31 females and 12 males) was examined and compared with the paratypes of Culicoides boyi Nielsen, Kristensen & Pape, 2015 and with specimens of Culicoides pulicaris Linnaeus, 1758. For females, suture distances on the eyes were newly evaluated as a diagnostic character and for males we assessed a new measurement on the ninth tergite and on the apicolateral processes.
Both phylogenetic analysis and barcode distances supported the distinct status of the new species, Culicoides bysta n. sp. described as a member of the Pulicaris group based on the morphology of males and females. The new species is closely related to C. boyi and C. pulicaris but can be distinguished on the basis of the wing pattern and the ratio between the two eye sutures. Both newly evaluated characters, i.e. eyes in females and male genitalia appeared to be diagnostic for distinguishing the new species described herein.
The vector potential of the recently described species C. boyi and C. bysta n. sp. to transmit arboviruses, such as BTV and SBV, is unknown. When considering these two species as being close to C. pulicaris, the previous data, such as the vector implication for C. pulicaris in BTV transmission, should be revaluated in future.