Influence of biotic and abiotic factors on the distribution and abundance of Culicoides imicola and the Obsoletus Complex in Italy

Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale dell'Abruzzo e del Molise, via Campo Boario, 64100, Teramo, Italy.
Veterinary Parasitology (Impact Factor: 2.46). 12/2007; 150(4):333-44. DOI: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2007.09.021
Source: PubMed


Culicoides imicola Kieffer (Culicoides, Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) is the principal vector of bluetongue virus (BTV) to ruminant livestock in southern Europe. The secondary potential vectors are Culicoides obsoletus (Meigen) and Culicoides scoticus Downes and Kettle of the Obsoletus Complex, Culicoides pulicaris (Linnaeus) of the Pulicaris Complex and Culicoides dewulfi Goetghebuer of the subgenus Avaritia Fox. Between 2000 and 2004 >38,000 light-trap collections were made for Culicoides across Italy including the islands of Sardinia and Sicily. Mapping of the 100 largest collections of C. imicola and of the Obsoletus Complex showed them to be disjunct overlapping in only 2% of the 200 municipalities selected. For each municipality the average values were calculated for minimum temperature, aridity index, altitude, terrain slope, normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI) and percentage forest cover. A factor analysis identified two principal factors ('biotic' and 'abiotic') and explained 84% of the total variability; a discriminant analysis classified correctly 87.5% of the observations. The results indicate adult populations of C. imicola to occur in more sparsely vegetated habitats that are exposed to full sunlight, whereas species of the Obsoletus Complex favour a more shaded habitat, with increased green leaf density. Heliophily and umbrophily, by shortening or lengthening the respective adult life cycles of these two vectors, will likely impact on the ability of each to transmit BTV and is discussed in the light of the current outbreak of BTV across the Mediterranean Basin.

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