Codivergence in heteromyid rodents (Rodentia: heteromyidae) and their sucking lice of the genus Fahrenholzia (Phthiraptera: anoplura)

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Although most studies of codivergence rely primarily on topological comparisons of host and parasite phylogenies, temporal assessments are necessary to determine if divergence events in host and parasite trees occurred contemporaneously. A combination of cophylogenetic analyses and comparisons of branch lengths are used in this study to understand the host-parasite association between heteromyid rodents (Rodentia: Heteromyidae) and their sucking lice of the genus Fahrenholzia (Phthiraptera: Anoplura). Cophylogenetic comparisons based on nucleotide substitutions in the mitochondrial COI gene reveal a significant, but not perfect, pattern of cophylogeny between heteromyids and their sucking lice. Regression analyses show a significant functional relationship between the lengths of analogous branches in the host and parasite trees, indicating that divergence events in hosts and parasites were approximately contemporaneous. Thus, the topological similarity observed between heteromyids and their lice is the result of codivergence. These analyses also show that the COI gene in lice is evolving two to three times faster than the same gene in their hosts (similar to the results of studies of other lice and their vertebrate hosts) and that divergence events in lice occurred shortly after host divergence. We recommend that future studies of codivergence include temporal comparisons and, when possible, use the same molecular marker(s) in hosts and parasites to achieve the greatest insight into the history of the host-parasite relationship.

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Systematic biology

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