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Species diversity of ectoparasitic chigger mites (Acari: Prostigmata) on small mammals in Yunnan Province, China

Peng, Pei-Ying, Guo, Xian-Guo, Ren, Tian-Guang, Song, Wen-Yu, Dong, Wen-Ge, Fan, Rong
Parasitology research 2016 v.115 no.9 pp. 3605-3618
Eothenomys, Prostigmata, Rattus norvegicus, altitude, chiggers, ectoparasites, hosts, landscapes, latitude, mountains, rodents, scrub typhus, small mammals, species diversity, zoogeography, China
Chigger mites are a large group of arthropods and the larvae of mites are ectoparasites. Some species of ectoparasitic mites (larvae) can be the transmitting vectors of tsutsugamushi disease (scrub typhus). Yunnan Province is located in the southwest of China with complicated topographic landform and high biodiversity, where there are five zoogeographical subregions. Rodents and some other small mammals were trapped and examined for ectoparasitic chigger mites in 29 investigation sites in Yunnan during 2001–2013. From 13,760 individuals and 76 species of small mammal hosts, we collected 274 species of mites, which were identified as comprising 26 genera in two families. The species diversity of chigger mites (274 species) in the present study were not only much higher than that from other provinces of China but also largely exceeded that recorded from other regions and countries in the world. Of the five zoogeographical subregions, both the species diversity and Shannon-Weiner’s diversity of mites were the highest in subregion II (southern subregion of Hengduan Mountains) with middle altitudes and middle latitude. Both the species diversity of mites and Shannon–Wiener diversity index showed a parabolic tendency from the low altitude (<500 m) to the high altitude (>3500 m) along the vertical gradients with the peak occurring in the middle-altitude regions (2000–2500 m). Of four dominant hosts, the species richness of mites was highest on Eothenomys miletus (S = 165) and Shannon–Wiener diversity index was highest on Rattus norvegicus (H = 3.13). Along latitude gradients, species richness of chigger mites increased first and then decreased, peaking at 25° to 26° N with 193 mite species. The geographical location, complex topography, and landscape with diverse small mammal hosts in Yunnan Province have contributed to the extremely high species diversity of mites in the province. The large sampling size of small mammal hosts in a wide geographical scope within a long time span also made it possible to have collected so many species of chigger mites.