Morphological and molecular evidence supporting the validity of Trialeurodes lauri and T. ricini (Hemiptera: Sternorrhyncha: Aleyrodidae).
The whiteflies Trialeurodes lauri and T. ricini have been found to be moving in international plant trade. The taxonomic validity and separation of these species is relevant to the plant health quarantine services of the European Union as T. lauri is oligophagous, nor recorded as a virus vector and present in the EU, whereas T. ricini is polyphagous, reported to be a virus vector, and absent from the EU (except for the Canary Islands). Yet doubt has been cast on the validity of the two species, with the suggestion that T. lauri is merely a variant of T. ricini. The taxonomic relationship was therefore investigated using morphological and molecular data. One morphological character traditionally used for the separation of these two species, the arrangement of the submarginal papillae, was found to be unreliable but morphological differences between the two species were found in the cephalic setal state, body outline and dorsal pigmentation. However, the differences were subtle and not always reliable. The molecular data, based on the sequence of a fragment of the COI gene, support the hypothesis that T. ricini and T. lauri are distinct valid species.