Identification of aphid (Hemiptera: Aphididae) species of economic importance in Kenya using DNA barcodes and PCR-RFLP-based approach
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Aphids are among pests of economic importance throughout the world. Together with transmitting plant viruses, aphids are capable of inflicting severe crop production losses. They also excrete honeydew that favours the growth of sooty mold which reduces the quality of vegetables and fruits and hence their market values. Rapid and accurate identification of aphids to the species level is a critical component in effective pest management and plant quarantine systems. Even though morphological taxonomy has made a tremendous impact on species-level identifications, polymorphism, morphological plasticity and immature stages are among the many challenges to accurate identification. In addition, their small size, presence of cryptic species and damaged specimens dictate the need for a strategy that will ensure timely and accurate identification. In this study, polymerase chain reaction-restriction fragment length polymorphism (PCR-RFLP)-based on mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I gene and DNA barcoding were applied to identify different aphid species collected from different agro-ecological zones of Kenya. Three restriction enzymes RsaI, AluI and Hinf1 produced patterns that allowed unambiguous identification of the species except Aphis craccivora and Aphis fabae. Analyses of the barcode region indicated intraspecific and interspecific sequence divergences of 0.08 and 6.63%, respectively. DNA barcoding identified all species, including the morphologically indistinguishable A. craccivora and A. fabae and separated two subspecies of A. fabae. Based on these results, both PCR-RFLPs and DNA barcoding could provide quick and accurate tools for identification of aphid species within Aphididae subsequently aiding in effective pest management programmes and enhance plant quarantine systems.