An unrecognized species of the Culicoides obsoletus complex feeding on livestock in the Netherlands

R. Meiswinkel, F.M. de Bree, Ruth de Vries, A.R.W. Elbers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


In studies on Culicoides attacking livestock in the Netherlands, we chanced upon a species of the Obsoletus complex that we do not recognize, but whose dark wing pattern is distinctive. Nine cytochrome c oxidase (CO1) sequences of our so-called ‘dark obsoletus’ support its status as a separate species, the sequences differing significantly from those representing Culicoides obsoletus (Meigen) (90–91% homology) and Culicoides scoticus Downes & Kettle (87–88% homology). In the last decade, several research groups in Europe have encountered ‘mystery species’ related to C. obsoletus and in some instances have made their sequences for various genetic loci available in GenBank. These include a CO1 series submitted from Sweden in 2012 (annotated as ‘obsoletus 01, 02, or 03 MA-2012′) and of which some share a 99% identity with our sequences for ‘dark obsoletus’. Without doubt, the series from the Netherlands, along with a portion of the Swedish submissions, together represent a single species (‘dark obsoletus’). Whether this species is referable to the Russian Culicoides gornostaevae Mirzaeva recorded recently from Norway, Sweden and Poland, and based solely upon the external morphology of the male, is not clear. The presence in Western Europe of multiple undescribed species related to C. obsoletus means that the taxonomy of this important vector complex is not fully resolved; consequently, we know little about these cryptic species with regard to seasonality, geographic range and host preference. This is undesirable given that Culicoides-borne arboviruses causing disease in livestock are moving more regularly out of the tropics and spreading north into temperate latitudes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)324-328
JournalVeterinary Parasitology
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • CO1 barcoding gene
  • Culicoides
  • Neighbour-joining tree
  • Obsoletus complex


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