Phylogenetic analysis of the Australasian paralysis ticks and their relatives (Ixodidae: Ixodes: Sternalixodes) Academic Article uri icon


  • The Australasian paralysis ticks and their relatives, Ixodes Latrielle, subgenus Sternalixodes Schulze, are some of the most important ticks in the region. However, very little is known about their phylogenetic relationships. The aim of this study was to elucidate the evolutionary relationships of members of the subgenus Sternalixodes by undertaking phylogenetic analyses of morphological and molecular datasets.Adult females (n = 64) of Sternalixodes, including Ixodes anatis Chilton, 1904, Ixodes confusus Roberts, 1960, Ixodes cornuatus Roberts, 1960, Ixodes cordifer Neumann, 1908, Ixodes dendrolagi Wilson, 1967, Ixodes hirsti Hassall, 1931, Ixodes holocyclus Neumann, 1899, Ixodes myrmecobii Roberts, 1962 and Ixodes trichosuri Roberts, 1960, were examined morphologically. Subsequently, these Ixodes spp. were genetically characterised using cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (cox1) gene and the internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS-2) of the rRNA. Both morphological and molecular datasets were analysed using various phylogenetic methods to assess the evolutionary relationship of various members of the subgenus Sternalixodes.Phylogenetic analyses of the cox1 sequences and morphological characters datasets revealed that the Australian and Papuan Sternalixodes formed a distinct clade with the New Zealand member of the group I. anatis positioned basally, in a separate clade. Ixodes holocyclus, I. cornuatus and I. myrmecobii formed a distinctive clade in both the cox1 and morphological phylogenies. However, based on phylogenetic analysis of the ITS-2 data, I. holocyclus formed a separate clade whereas I. cornuatus and I. myrmecobii grouped in a different clade.The cox1 and morphological data suggest that the subgenus Sternalixodes is paraphyletic, and I. anatis is not a sternalixodid tick; hence, it should not be included in the subgenus. Based on the phylogenetic analyses of cox1 and ITS-2 sequences, it appears that I. myrmecobii and I. cornuatus are not subspecies of I. holocyclus. Although this study provided better insights into the taxonomic status of the subgenus Sternalixodes, a complete morphological and molecular (using multiple markers) phylogenetic analysis including all members of the subgenus would be required to more accurately elucidate the evolutionary relationships within the subgenus.


  • Kwak, Mackenzie L
  • Beveridge, Ian
  • Koehler, Anson V
  • Malipatil, Mallik
  • Gasser, Robin B
  • Jabbar, Abdul

publication date

  • 2017