Morphological, molecular and biological evidence reveal two cryptic species in Mecinus janthinus Germar (Coleoptera, Curculionidae), a successful biological control agent of Dalmatian toadflax, Linaria dalmatica (Lamiales, Plantaginaceae)

Ivo Tosevski, Roberto Caldara, Jelena Jovic, Gerardo Hernandez-Vera, Cosima Baviera, Andre Gassmann, Brent C. Emerson

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A combined morphological, molecular and biological study shows that the weevil species presently named Mecinus janthinus is actually composed of two different cryptic species: M. janthinus Germar, 1821 and M. janthiniformis Toševski & Caldara sp.n. These species are morphologically distinguishable from each other by a few very subtle morphological characters. On the contrary, they are more readily distinguishable by both molecular and biological characters. A molecular assessment based on the mitochondrial DNA cytochrome oxidase subunit II gene revealed fixed differences between the two species with p-distances between samples of both species ranging from 1.3 to 2.4%. In addition to this, the larvae of the two species are found to develop on different species within the genus Linaria (Plantaginaceae): M. janthinus is associated with yellow toadflax (L. vulgaris) and M. janthiniformis with broomleaf toadflax (L. genistifolia) and Dalmatian toadflax (L. dalmatica). Molecular and host use records further suggest the occurrence of a third species associated with L. vulgaris within M. janthinus, sampled from north Switzerland, central Hungary and east Serbia. The significance of these new findings is of particular importance because species of the M. janthinus group are used, or are potential candidates, for the biological control of invasive toadflaxes in North America.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)741-753
Number of pages13
JournalSystematic Entomology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011

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