Out of Africa: The origins of the protozoan blood parasites of the Trypanosoma cruzi clade found in bats from Africa.

Affiliation

Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland. Electronic address: [Email]

Abstract

Understanding geographic patterns of interaction between hosts and parasites can provide useful insight into the evolutionary history of the organisms involved. However, poor taxon sampling often hinders meaningful phylogenetic descriptions of groups of parasites. Trypanosome parasites that constitute the Trypanosoma cruzi clade are worldwide distributed infecting several mammalian species, especially bats. Diversity in this clade has been recently expanded by newly discovered species, but the common ancestor and geographical origins of this group of blood parasites are still debated. We present here results based on the molecular characterization of trypanosome isolates obtained from 1493 bats representing 74 species and sampled over 16 countries across four continents. After estimating the appropriate number of hypothetical species in our data set using GMYC models in combination with Poisson Tree Processes (mPTP) and ABGD, the 18S rRNA and gGAPDH genes were used for phylogenetic analyses to infer the major evolutionary relationships in the T. cruzi clade. Then, biogeographical processes influencing the distribution of this cosmopolitan group of parasites was inferred using BioGeoBEARS. Results revealed a large lineages diversity and the presence of trypanosomes in all sampled regions which infected 344 individuals from 31 bat species. We found eight Trypanosoma species, including: five previously known; one subspecies of Trypanosoma livingstonei (Trypanosoma cf. livingstonei); and two undescribed taxa (Trypanosoma sp. 1, Trypanosoma sp. 2), which were found exclusively in bats of the genus Miniopterus from Europe and Africa. The new taxa discovered have both an unexpected position in the global phylogeny of the T. cruzi clade. Trypanosoma sp. 1 is a sister lineage of T. livingstonei which is located at the base of the tree, whereas Trypanosoma sp. 2 is a sister lineage of the Shizotrypanum subclade that contains T. c. cruzi and T. dionisii. Ancestral areas reconstruction provided evidence that trypanosomes of the T. cruzi clade have radiated from Africa through several dispersion events across the world. We discuss the impact of these findings on the biogeography and taxonomy of this important clade of parasites and question the role played by bats, especially those from the genus Miniopterus, on the dispersal of these protozoan parasites between continents.

Keywords

Chiropterans,OTU analyses,Parasite dispersal,Phylogeny,Species delimitation,Trypanosome parasites,

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