Geometric morphometric study of geographic and host-related variability in Aceria spp. (Acari: Eriophyoidea) inhabiting Cirsium spp. (Asteraceae)
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The russet mite, Aceria anthocoptes (Nalepa), is the only eriophyoid that has been recorded on Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop. It has been noted in several European countries and recently in the USA. In this study we explored the geographic and host-related variability of Aceria spp. inhabiting different Cirsium spp. We applied landmark-based geometric morphometric methods to study morphological variability of three body regions (ventral, coxigenital and prodorsal) of 13 Aceria spp. populations inhabiting five Cirsium spp. in Serbia (Europe) and four Cirsium spp. in Colorado (North America). Analyses of size and shape variation revealed statistically significant differences between Aceria spp. living on European native and North American native Cirsium spp., as well as between A. anthocoptes s.s. inhabiting European C. arvense and North American C. arvense. The coxigenital region was the most informative when considering inter-population shape differences. European Aceria spp. dwelling on Cirsium spp., including A. anthocoptes s.s. from C. arvense, are characterized by higher inter-population size and shape variability than their North American counterparts. This finding supports a Eurasian origin of A. anthocoptes, presumed to consist of a complex of cryptic taxa probably coevolved with host plants in the native environment. Morphological similarity among Aceria spp. inhabiting North American native Cirsium spp. may indicate that speciation of A. anthocoptes started relatively soon after the host shift to plants different from C. arvense in the invaded region.