Coptotermes gestroi (Wasmann) or the Asian subterranean termite is a serious structural pest in urban settlements in Southeast Asia that has been introduced to other parts of the world through human commerce. Although mitochondrial DNA markers were previously used to shed light on the dispersal history of the Asian subterranean termite, there were limited attempts to analyze or include populations of the termite found in the wild in Southeast Asia. In this study, we analyzed the 16S ribosomal RNA (16S rRNA) and cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (cox1) genes of Asian subterranean termite colonies found in mangrove swamps, beach forests, plantations, and buildings in semi-urban and urban areas to determine the relationship between colonies found in the wild and the urban habitat, and to investigate the possibility of different ecotypes of the termite in Peninsular Malaysia. Our findings show that the 16S rRNA haplotypes recovered from this study clustered into eastern, western, and southern populations of the termite, while the cox1 haplotypes were often specific to an area or site. The 16S rRNA and cox1 genes or haplotypes showed that the most abundant haplotype occupied a wide range of environments or habitats. In addition, the cox1 tree showed evidence of historical biogeography where basal haplotypes inhabited a wide range of habitats, while apical haplotypes were restricted to mangrove swamps and beach forests. Information on the haplotype-habitat association of C. gestroi will enable the prediction of habitats that may harbor or be at risk of invasion in areas where they have been introduced.
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Vol. 43 • No. 4