Genetic diversity of Hyalomma marginatum in Tunisia is not influenced by the bio-climate
Ticks are important ectoparasites responsible for the transmission of several pathogens with significant medical, veterinary, and economic impacts. Climate and social changes have generated substantial changes in ticks’ distribution, abundance, and activity patterns, including ticks belonging to the Hyalomma marginatum species. Knowledge on the genetic structure and dynamics of H. marginatum populations might contribute to a better understanding of their current and future evolution under the effects of anthropogenic factors and eco-climatic changes. In the present study, we investigated the genetic structure and phylogenetic distribution of H. marginatum across three bioclimatic regions in Tunisia using two mitochondrial markers (16S and 12S rRNA). The molecular investigations were based on 47 adult H. marginatum ticks collected from humid, upper semi-arid, and sub-humid regions of Tunisia. Our results revealed a genetic diversity of 0.278% and 0.809% using the 16S and 12S markers, respectively. The low genetic diversity that we observed raises the hypothesis of a bottleneck event occasioned by a reduction in the size of the tick population under the effects of environmental factors and/or human activities. This hypothesis is supported by the population’s demographic history analysis, which revealed a clear deviation from neutrality and supports the occurrence of a bottleneck event followed by a demographic expansion. The fact that most 16S and 12S variability was present in the ticks from the humid bioclimatic zone may suggest that those ticks represent the ancestral population. Overall, the analysis has shown that the phylogenetic clusters do not correspond to the bioclimatic zones.