U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Hopken et al. Parasites & Vectors (2017) 10:169


© The Author(s). 2017 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License


Background: Biting midges in the genus Culicoides (Diptera; Ceratopogonidae) have been implicated in the transmission of a number of parasites and highly pathogenic viruses. In North America, the complete transmission cycles of many of these pathogens need further elucidation. One way to increase our knowledge about the evolution and ecology of Culicoides species and the pathogens they transmit is to document the diversity of vertebrate hosts that Culicoides feed upon. Our objective was to identify the diversity of Culicoides hosts in the United States.

Results: We sequenced two vertebrate mitochondrial genes (cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 and cytochrome b) from blood-engorged Culicoides to identify Culicoides species and their blood meals. We detected the mitochondrial DNA of 12 host species from seven different Culicoides species from three states. The majority of the identified blood meals were from the C. variipennis species complex in California. The hosts included both mammals and birds. We documented new host records for some of the Culicoides species collected. The majority of the mammalian hosts were large ungulate species but we also detected a lagomorph and a carnivore. The bird species that were detected included house finch and emu; the latter is evidence that the species in the C. variipennis species complex are not strictly mammalophilic.

Conclusions: These results demonstrate that Culicoides will feed on multiple classes of vertebrates and may be more opportunistic in regards to host choice than previously thought. This knowledge can help with identification of susceptible host species, pathogen reservoirs, and new vector species which, in turn, will improve disease outbreak risk assessments.

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