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Multi-character approach reveals a discordant pattern of phenotypic variation during ontogeny in Culex pipiens biotypes (Diptera: Culicidae)

Krtinić, B., Ludoški, J., Milankov, V.
Bulletin of entomological research 2015 v.105 no.1 pp. 129-138
Culex pipiens, adults, biotypes, eclosion, encephalitis, epidemiology, forest ecosystems, host preferences, larvae, marshes, morphometry, ontogeny, phenotypic plasticity, rearing, risk assessment, sexual dimorphism, urban areas, Serbia
Culex (Culex) pipiens s.l. (Diptera: Culicidae) comprises two distinct biotypes, pipiens (‘rural’) and molestus (‘urban’), both of which are thought to have differing capacities due to different host preferences. To better understand West Nile encephalitis epidemiology and improve risk assessment, local distinction between these forms is essential. This study assesses phenotypic variation at larval and adult stages of ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ biotypes of the species by complementary use of meristic, univariate and multivariate traits analyzed by traditional and geometric morphometrics. Third- and fourth-instar larvae from a broad area of the city of Novi Sad (Serbia) were collected and reared in the laboratory. After adult eclosion, the sex of each larva was recorded based on the sex of the corresponding adult. Examination of the association between variations of larval traits revealed contrasting variations regarding pecten spines vs. siphonal size and siphonal shape in the ‘rural’ biotype. Siphons of larvae collected in marshes and forest ecosystems outside urban areas were found to be the largest, but possessed the smallest number of pecten spines. In addition, statistically significant female-biased sexual dimorphism was observed in siphonal size, wing size and wing shape. Finally, we propose that an integrative approach is essential in delimitation of Cx. pipiens s.l. biotypes, since their differentiation was not possible based solely on larval and adult traits. Our findings shed light on the phenotypic plasticity important for population persistence in the changing environment of these medically important taxa.