Cat fleas, Ctenocephalides felis (Bouché) (Siphonaptera: Pulicidae), are common ectoparasites of companion animals that negatively impact their hosts directly by causing dermatitis and blood loss during feeding and indirectly through the potential transmission of disease causing agents. We isolated and characterized seven novel microsatellite loci from a partial genomic library of the cat flea enriched for di-, tri-, and tetranucleotide repeats. We screened these loci in cat fleas from two laboratory colonies and one wild-caught population collected at a temporary animal shelter (Parker coliseum) in Baton Rouge, LA. Six loci were polymorphic, with two to 15 alleles per locus and an average observed heterozygosity of 0.21 across populations. Although the two laboratory cat flea colonies were isolated from each other for many years, they did not significantly differ in their genotypic composition. The cat flea population from Parker coliseum was genetically different from the laboratory colonies, but also showed high degrees of inbreeding. Multilocus genotypes of the polymorphic loci were sufficient to assign over 85% of cat fleas to their population of origin. Genetic markers for flea population identity will allow further studies to examine the origins and movement of cat fleas with important genetic traits such as insecticide resistance or pathogen susceptibility. The use of microsatellites also could determine if there are host-specific strains of cat fleas and add insight into the development of the different subspecies of C. felis.
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Vol. 47 • No. 6