Phylogenetic analyses, from polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-amplified 12S rRNA and 18S rRNAgene sequences from cochineal insects of the genus Dactylopius present in Mexico, showed that D. ceylonicus, D. confusus, and D. opuntiae are closely related. D. coccus constitutes a separate clade, and D. tomentosus is the most distantly related. Bacterial 16S rRNA sequences from all the Dactylopius species sampled showed a common β-proteobacteria, related to Azoarcus, also found in eggs and in bacteriocytes in D. coccus. We propose the name “Candidatus Dactylopiibacterium carminicum” for this endosymbiont. Other bacterial sequences recovered from the samples were close to those from soil or plant associated bacteria, like Massilia, Herbaspirillum, Acinetobacter, Mesorhizobium, and Sphingomonas, suggesting a possible horizontal transmission from Cactaceae plant sap to Dactylopius spp. during feeding. This is the first molecular analysis of Dactylopius species and of their associated bacteria.
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