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Do gut symbiotes reflect the endemism of their host black flies (Diptera: Simuliidae) in the Caucasus of Armenia?

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Abstract Aim 

We tested the hypothesis that endemism of black flies in the Caucasus of Armenia is reflected in their gut symbiotes, i.e. trichomycete fungi and ichthyosporean protists. Location 

The study area, Armenia, is a biodiversity hotspot, with high levels of plant and animal endemism. Located in the southern Caucasus, Armenia is a rugged, mountainous, landlocked country of 29,800 km2, with fast-flowing rivers and little forested land. About half of the 51 species of black flies in Armenia are endemic to the Caucasus. Methods 

The larvae of 22 species of black flies, including seven endemic to the Caucasus, were collected from 35 sites throughout Armenia, from 1998 to 2004, and assayed microscopically for gut-inhabiting trichomycete fungi and ichthyosporean protists. Results 

Nearly 68% of larval black flies in Armenia contained at least one species of gut symbiote, with a mean of 0.9 ± 0.04 species per host larva. Eight species of trichomycete fungi and two species of ichthyosporeans were found in larval guts. Seven of these species were recorded for the first time in Asian black flies. Species accumulation curves showed no additional species of gut symbiotes after 17 host species and 22 sites had been examined. All gut symbiotes were widely distributed, indicating an absence of endemic trichomycetes in the black flies of Armenia. Main conclusions 

Although the Caucasus Region is noted for its high levels of endemism for plants and animals, including black flies, the gut symbiotes of black flies are all widespread species. The absence of endemic gut symbiotes in larval black flies might be explained by their lack of host specificity; an absence of host specificity would not constrain the geographical distribution of the symbiotes.
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Keywords: Armenia; Simuliidae; biogeography; distributions; endemism; ichthyosporeans; streams; symbiosis; trichomycete fungi

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Entomology, Soils, and Plant Sciences, Clemson University, Clemson, SC, USA 2: Institute of Molecular Biology, National Academy of Science, Yerevan, Armenia

Publication date: August 1, 2005

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