Characterization and risk assessment of the invasive papaya mealybug, Paracoccus marginatus, in Kenya under changing climate.
The present study was conducted to characterize the newly invasive papaya mealybug Paracoccus marginatus Williams and Granara de Willink in Kenya using molecular techniques and to establish the potential risk of spread of the pest. Although abundant literature of P. marginatus outbreaks exists in other parts of the world, studies from Africa are rare. Our results revealed significant similarity between Kenyan samples with GenBank accession number KP692333.1 of P. marginatus. Phylogenetic analyses generated a tree that was paraphyletic with two clusters showing low genetic distance values for the P. marginatus sequences, which diverged from that of Planococcus citri. Our models displayed an optimal performance with mean area under the curve value of 0.82 and 0.98 for Genetic Algorithm for Rule-Set Production (GARP) and maximum entropy modelling (MaxEnt), respectively. Isothermality was the most influential variable in determining the potential distribution of P. marginatus with a 69% contribution to the models. Other variables included temperature mean diurnal range temperature seasonality, temperature annual range and annual precipitation in decreasing order of contribution. Current prediction by both models exceeded the existing range of P. marginatus, exacerbating the potential threat of the pest. GARP was more conservative in predicting suitable areas for P. marginatus, while MaxEnt showed further expansion by the year 2050. Our findings provide important information to guide biosecurity agencies in decision-making to prevent the spread and enhance control efforts of P. marginatus.