The Ixodes ricinus species complex is a group of ticks distributed in almost all geographic regions of the world. Lyme borreliosis spirochetes are primarily transmitted by tick species within this complex. It has been hypothesized that the Lyme vector ticks around the world are closely related and represent a monophyletic group. This implies that vector competence in ixodid ticks for Lyme agents might have evolved only once. To test this hypothesis, we used a molecular phylogenetic approach. Two fragments of mitochondrial 16S ribosomal deoxyribonucleic acid were sequenced from 11 species in the I. ricinus complex and from 16 other species of Ixodes. Phylogenetic analysis using Bayesian methodology indicated that the I. ricinus complex is not a monophyletic group unless 3 additional Ixodes species are included in it. The known major vectors of Lyme disease agents in different areas of the world are not sister taxa. This suggests that acquisition of the ability to transmit borreliosis agents in species of Ixodes may have multiple origins.
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