Global population structure of a worldwide pest and virus vector: Genetic diversity and population history of the Bemisia tabaci sibling species group

Margarita Hadjistylli, George K. Roderick, Judith K. Brown

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57 Scopus citations


The whitefly Bemisia tabaci sibling species (sibsp.) group comprises morphologically indiscernible lineages of well-known exemplars referred to as biotypes. It is distributed throughout tropical and subtropical latitudes and includes the contemporary invasive haplotypes, termed B and Q. Several well-studied B. tabaci biotypes exhibit ecological and biological diversity, however, most members are poorly studied or completely uncharacterized. Genetic studies have revealed substantial diversity within the group based on a fragment of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I (mtCOI) sequence (haplotypes), with other tested markers being less useful for deep phylogenetic comparisons. The view of global relationships within the B. tabaci sibsp. group is largely derived from this single marker, making assessment of gene flow and genetic structure difficult at the population level. Here, the population structure was explored for B. tabaci in a global context using nuclear data from variable microsatellite markers. Worldwide collections were examined representing most of the available diversity, including known monophagous, polyphagous, invasive, and indigenous haplotypes. Well-characterized biotypes and other related geographic lineages discovered represented highly differentiated genetic clusters with little or no evidence of gene flow. The invasive B and Q biotypes exhibited moderate to high levels of genetic diversity, suggesting that they stemmed from large founding populations that have maintained ancestral variation, despite homogenizing effects, possibly due to human-mediated among-population gene flow. Results of the microsatellite analyses are in general agreement with published mtCOI phylogenies; however, notable conflicts exist between the nuclear and mitochondrial relationships, highlighting the need for a multifaceted approach to delineate the evolutionary history of the group. This study supports the hypothesis that the extant B. tabaci sibsp. group contains ancient genetic entities and highlights the vast cryptic diversity throughout the genome in the group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0165105
JournalPloS one
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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