• Amazonia;
  • cytochrome b;
  • mtDNA;
  • phylogeography;
  • Rhodnius;
  • speciation


The phylogeographical structure of the closely related species Rhodnius prolixus and R. robustus is presented based on a 663-base pair (bp) fragment of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene. Twenty haplotypes were recovered from 84 samples examined, representing 26 populations from seven Latin American countries. The resulting phylogenetic tree is composed of five major reciprocally monophyletic clades, one representing R. prolixus and four representing R. robustus. While R. prolixus is a very homogeneous assemblage, R. robustus has deeper clades and is paraphyletic, with the clade comprising R. robustus from Venezuela (Orinoco region) more closely related to the R. prolixus clade than to the other R. robustus populations from the Amazon region. The R. robustus paraphyly was supported further by the analysis of a nuclear gene (D2 region of the 28S RNA) for a subset of specimens. The data support the view that R. robustus represents a species complex. Levels of sequence divergence between clades within each region are compatible with a Pleistocene origin. Nucleotide diversity (π) for all R. prolixus populations was extremely low (0.0008), suggesting that this species went through a recent bottleneck, and was subsequently dispersed by man.