Biodiversity assessment of tetranychid mites in Kenya and the conservation hotspots of Tanzania
Toroitich, Faith Jebet
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The aims of this study were to develop a detailed record of the tetranychid mites of Kenya and Tanzania, to assess the diversity of tetranychid mites in the east African biodiversity hotspots and to determine female characters that can be used to identify the species of the economically important Tetranychus species found in these countries. The genetic diversity of the most abundant Tetranychus species (Tetranychus evansi Baker & Pritchard) was also assessed. The Tetranychidae (Acari) contain some of the most important pest species of phytophagous mites worldwide. Out of the almost 1,300 species in this family, 256 species are known to occur in Africa. Before this study, ten species had been reported from Kenya and only three in Tanzania. The genus Tetranychus to which most of the pest species belongs to, can only be identified to species level by the use of the male aedeagus that is often difficult to visualize. The natural habitat, the Eastern Arc Mountains and East African Coastal Forests in Kenya and Tanzania is recognized as biodiversity hotspots but prior to his study, information on Tetranychidae in these hotspots was lacking. Thus, no information on the natural mite fauna composition was available. In Kenya, 18 tetranychid mite species from various plant hosts have been recorded. Four of these species belong to the subfamily Bryobiinae and the other 14 to the subfamily Tetranychinae. Eight of the mite species identified belong to the genera Bryobia, Petrobia, Peltanobia, Paraplonobia, Duplanychus, Eutetranychus and Mixonychus and are being reported for the first time in Kenya while the other ten had already been reported before. For Tanzania, six species belonging to the genera Tetranychus, Eutetranychus and Mixonychus are being reported for the first time from Tanzania and other three had been reported before. A list of these species, their brief descriptions as well as a key for identification is provided. A redescription of Peltanobia erasmusi including previously undescribed male characters is given. Schizotetranychus kwalensis sp. nov. from Kenya and Brevinychus meshacki from Tanzania were collected on Omorcarpum kirkii (Fabaceae) from Matuga, Kwale district, Kenya and Philonoptera eriocalyx (Fabaceae) from Sangasanga, Mvomero district, Tanzania respectively and described. Revised keys of Brevinychus and of the African species of Schizotetranychus are also provided. Tetranychus evansi Baker & Pritchard ranked highest in abundance amongst all the tetranychid mites collected. It was found in four out of five fragments of the hotspot, and it survives in a wide range of altitudes from as low as 123 m to 1655 m. Molecular examination of T. evansi collected from Kenya and Tanzania and on different host plants revealed an identical DNA sequence of the mitochondrial COI fragment and 19 identical microsatellite alleles suggesting a single introduction of this species to this part of East Africa. Female characters of four Tetranychus species found in Kenya were explored using the scanning electron microscope. Differences in the distances between the duplex setae of species belonging to the desertorum group (Tetranychus evansi Baker & Pritchard and Tetranychus ludeni Zacher) and those grouped by Flechtmann and Knihinicki (2002) under group 9 (Tetranychus neocaledonicus Andre and Tetranychus urticae Koch) were observed. The dorsal striae of T. evansi, T. neocaledonicus and T. urticae have semicircular lobes whereas those on the dorsal striae of T. ludeni are triangular.