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A revision of chiggers of the minuta species-group (Acari: Trombiculidae: Neotrombicula Hirst, 1925) using multivariate morphometrics

A.A. Stekolnikov and P.B. Klimov

Systematic Parasitology, 77 (1): 55-69 (2010).


We revise chiggers belonging to the minuta-species group (genus Neotrombicula Hirst, 1925) from the Palaearctic using size-free multivariate morphometrics. This approach allowed us to resolve several diagnostic problems. We show that the widely distributed Neotrombicula scrupulosa Kudryashova, 1993 forms three spatially and ecologically isolated groups different from each other in size or shape (morphometric property) only: specimens from the Caucasus are distinct from those from Asia in shape, whereas the Asian specimens from plains and mountains are different from each other in size. We developed a multivariate classification model to separate three closely related species: N. scrupulosa, N. lubrica Kudryashova, 1993 and N. minuta Schluger, 1966. This model is based on five shape variables selected from an initial 17 variables by a best subset analysis using a custom size-correction subroutine. The variable selection procedure slightly improved the predictive power of the model, suggesting that it not only removed redundancy but also reduced "noise" in the dataset. The overall classification accuracy of this model is 96.2, 96.2 and 95.5%, as estimated by internal validation, external validation and jackknife statistics, respectively. Our analyses resulted in one new synonymy: N. dimidiata Stekolnikov, 1995 is considered to be a synonym of N. lubrica. Both N. scrupulosa and N. lubrica are recorded from new localities. A key to species of the minuta-group incorporating results from our multivariate analyses is presented.

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