RESULTS: A molecular phylogenetic analysis of the mitochondrial ORF and putative control region concurs with a haploweb analysis of nuclear ITS2 sequences in delimiting three species among our dataset: species A and B are found in Madagascar whereas species C occurs in Okinawa, the Philippines and New Caledonia. Comparison of ITS1 sequences from these three species with data available online suggests that species C is also found on the Great Barrier Reef, in Malaysia, in the South China Sea and in Taiwan, and that a distinct species D occurs in the Red Sea. Shallow-water morphs of species A correspond to the morphological description of Stylophora madagascarensis, species B presents the morphology of Stylophora mordax, whereas species C comprises various morphotypes including Stylophora pistillata and Stylophora mordax.
CONCLUSIONS: Genetic analysis of the coral genus Stylophora reveals species boundaries that are not congruent with morphological traits. Of the four hypotheses that may explain such discrepancy (phenotypic plasticity, morphological stasis, morphological convergence, and interspecific hybridization), the first two appear likely to play a role but the fourth one is rejected since mitochondrial and nuclear markers yield congruent species delimitations. The position of the root in our molecular phylogenies suggests that the center of origin of Stylophora is located in the western Indian Ocean, which probably explains why this genus presents a higher biodiversity in the westernmost part of its area of distribution than in the "Coral Triangle".
METHODS: We collected a total of 125 bat flies from three Pteropus species (Pteropus vampyrus, P. hypomelanus, and P. lylei) from eight localities in Malaysia, Cambodia, and Vietnam. We identified specimens morphologically and then sequenced three mitochondrial DNA gene fragments (CoI, CoII, cytB; 1744 basepairs total) from a subset of 45 bat flies. We measured genetic diversity, molecular variance, and population genetic subdivision (FST), and used phylogenetic and haplotype network analyses to quantify parasite genetic structure across host species and localities.
RESULTS: All flies were identified as Cyclopodia horsfieldi with the exception of two individuals of Eucampsipoda sundaica. Low levels of population genetic structure were detected between populations of Cyclopodia horsfieldi from across a wide geographic range (~1000 km), and tests for isolation by distance were rejected. AMOVA results support a lack of geographic and host-specific population structure, with molecular variance primarily partitioned within populations. Pairwise FST values from flies collected from island populations of Pteropus hypomelanus in East and West Peninsular Malaysia supported predictions based on previous studies of host genetic structure.
CONCLUSIONS: The lack of population genetic structure and morphological variation observed in Cyclopodia horsfieldi is most likely due to frequent contact between flying fox species and subsequent high levels of parasite gene flow. Specifically, we suggest that Pteropus vampyrus may facilitate movement of bat flies between the three Pteropus species in the region. We demonstrate the utility of parasite genetics as an additional layer of information to measure host movement and interspecific host contact. These approaches may have wide implications for understanding zoonotic, epizootic, and enzootic disease dynamics. Bat flies may play a role as vectors of disease in bats, and their competence as vectors of bacterial and/or viral pathogens is in need of further investigation.