Disentangling lousy relationships: Comparative phylogenomics of two sucking louse lineages parasitizing chipmunks

Kayce C. Bell, Julie M. Allen, Kevin P. Johnson, John R. Demboski, Joseph A. Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The evolution of obligate parasites is often interpreted in light of their hosts’ evolutionary history. An expanded approach is to examine the histories of multiple lineages of parasites that inhabit similar environments on a particular host lineage. Western North American chipmunks (genus Tamias) have a broad distribution, a history of divergence with gene flow, and host two species of sucking lice (Anoplura), Hoplopleura arboricola and Neohaematopinus pacificus. From total genomic sequencing, we obtained sequences of over 1100 loci sampled across the genomes of these lice to compare their evolutionary histories and examine the roles of host association in structuring louse relationships. Within each louse species, clades are largely associated with closely related chipmunk host species. Exceptions to this pattern appear to have a biogeographic component, but differ between the two louse species. Phylogenetic relationships among these major louse clades, in both species, are not congruent with chipmunk relationships. In the context of host associations, each louse lineage has a different evolutionary history, supporting the hypothesis that host-parasite assemblages vary both across the landscape and with the taxa under investigation. In addition, the louse Hoplopleura erratica (parasitizing the eastern Tamias striatus) is embedded within H. arboricola, rendering it paraphyletic. This phylogenetic result, together with comparable divergences within H. arboricola, indicate a need for taxonomic revision. Both host divergence and biogeographic components shape parasite diversification as demonstrated by the distinctive diversification patterns of these two independently evolving lineages that parasitize the same hosts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106998
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Anoplura
  • Chipmunks
  • Hoplopleura arboricola
  • Lice
  • Neohaematopinus pacificus
  • Phylogenomics
  • Tamias
  • INHS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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