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Keywords:

  • Triatoma garciabesi;
  • Triatoma sordida;
  • ecological niche divergence;
  • shape;
  • size

Identifying morphologically similar triatomine species is key to Chagas' disease vector control and surveillance, but remains challenging when only qualitative phenotypic data are available. We investigated whether morphometric and ecological variation can provide additional criteria for species delimitation by combining geometric morphometrics and ecological niche modelling to characterize two near-sibling triatomine species, Triatoma sordida and Triatoma garciabesi (Reduviidae: Triatominae). We analysed size and shape variation in 231 wings and 123 heads from one T. garciabesi and three T. sordida populations. Predicted distribution maps (21 climatic variables, 324 vector occurrence points) were produced using the Maxent method. Multivariate analyses summarized morphological and ecological variation. Wings and heads of T. sordida were significantly larger and more elongated than those of T. garciabesi. Discriminant analyses separated the species, with a partial overlap between Argentinean populations. The predicted distribution of T. garciabesi included northwest Argentina (mainly arid Chaco), whereas that of T. sordida included northeast Argentina (humid Chaco) and the Brazilian Cerrado and Caatinga ecoregions. Clear ecological niche differences were observed, with T. garciabesi occupying colder and drier areas than T. sordida. Our results show how morphometric variation and niche divergence can be used to enhance operational criteria for the delimitation of phenotypically similar triatomine species.