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Genetic diversity of Philaenus spumarius and P. tesselatus (Hemiptera, Aphrophoridae): implications for evolution and taxonomy



The meadow spittlebugs Philaenus spumarius and P. tesselatus are closely related taxa with uncertain taxonomic position in the light of previous morphological, ecological, cytological and molecular research. Despite morphological homogeneity of P. spumarius (with the exception of high colour and pattern polymorphism) across its wide Holarctic range, it is possible that additional taxa (species or subspecies) exist. Philaenus spumarius is a potentially important pest in parts of its range where it was introduced. We used DNA markers to describe the genetic diversity of P. spumarius and P. tesselatus and to verify the taxonomic status of P. tesselatus and remote populations of the former species. The mitochondrial (cytochrome B) data showed that there are two main groups encompassing a northeastern (Asia and north-central Europe) and a southwestern (Mediterranean area and western Europe, including North American specimens) clade. According to the elongation factor-1α gene, there are three main clades: northeastern (Eurasiatic clade, E1), southeastern (east Mediterranean – Caucasus clade, E2) and southwestern (Iberian clade, E3). These two or three mitochondrial and nuclear clades could be considered as separate taxonomic units. On the other hand, all studied individuals of both species possessed the same internal transcribed spacer 2 haplotype. American specimens most probably originated from some western European populations. All studied specimens of P. tesselatus belong to the southwestern clade and western Mediterranean cluster. Therefore, together with cytological data, its species status is doubtful. To definitively solve the taxonomic status of P. tesselatus and populations of P. spumarius, further research using more samples and more genetic markers are needed.