Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Irvine

UC Irvine Previously Published Works bannerUC Irvine

Molecular evidence for new sympatric cryptic species of Aedes albopictus (Diptera: Culicidae) in China: A new threat from Aedes albopictus subgroup?



Aedes (Stegomyia) albopictus (Skuse) is an indigenous species and the predominant vector of dengue fever in China. Understanding of genetic diversity and structure of the mosquito would facilitate dengue prevention and vector control. Sympatric cryptic species have been identified in the Ae. albopictus subgroup in Southeast Asia; however, little is known about the presence and distribution of cryptic species in China. This study aimed to examine the genetic diversity, evaluate potential new cryptic sibling species, and assess the prevalence of Wolbachia infections in field populations.


Aedes adult female specimens were collected from five provinces in southern and central China during 2015-2016. Morphological identification was performed under dissection microscope. The mitochondrial DNA cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (cox1, DNA barcoding) locus and the ribosomal DNA internal transcribed spacer region 2 (ITS2) marker were used to examine the genetic variation, evaluate cryptic sibling species, and population structure in the field populations. Screening for the presence of Wolbachia was performed using multiplex PCR.


A total of 140 individual specimens with morphological characteristics similar to Ae. albopictus were sequenced for DNA barcoding. Among these, 129 specimens (92.1%) were confirmed and identified as Ae. albopictus. The remaining 11 specimens, from 2 provinces, were identified as 2 distinct sequence groups, which were confirmed by ITS2 marker sequencing, suggesting the existence of potential cryptic species of Ae. albopictus. In Ae. albopictus, we found significant genetic differentiation and population structure between populations collected from different climate zones. Medium to high frequencies of Wolbachia infections were observed in natural Ae. albopictus populations, whereas Wolbachia was infrequent or absent in cryptic species populations.


Our findings highlight the population differentiation by climate zone and the presence of novel, cryptic Aedes species in China. The low prevalence of Wolbachia infections in cryptic species populations could reflect either a recent invasion of Wolbachia in Ae. albopictus or different host immune responses to this symbiont in the cryptic species. The study provides useful information for vector control and host-symbiont coevolution. Further study is needed to investigate the potential for arbovirus infection and disease transmission in the emerged cryptic species.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View