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Concept: Tunisia


Culex pipiens L. is the most widespread mosquito vector in temperate regions including North Africa. Cx. pipiens has two recognized forms or biotypes; pipiens and molestus are morphologically indistinguishable with distinct behavior and physiology that may influence their vectorial status. In our study, we prospected for the different forms of Cx. pipiens in Morocco.

Concepts: Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, Tunisia, Nonanal, Algeria, Morocco, Western Sahara


While Phoenician culture and trade networks had a significant impact on Western civilizations, we know little about the Phoenicians themselves. In 1994, a Punic burial crypt was discovered on Byrsa Hill, near the entry to the National Museum of Carthage in Tunisia. Inside this crypt were the remains of a young man along with a range of burial goods, all dating to the late 6th century BCE. Here we describe the complete mitochondrial genome recovered from the Young Man of Byrsa and identify that he carried a rare European haplogroup, likely linking his maternal ancestry to Phoenician influenced locations somewhere on the North Mediterranean coast, the islands of the Mediterranean or the Iberian Peninsula. This result not only provides the first direct ancient DNA evidence of a Phoenician individual but the earliest evidence of a European mitochondrial haplogroup, U5b2c1, in North Africa.

Concepts: Mediterranean Sea, Iberian Peninsula, Spain, Tunisia, Morocco, Ancient Rome, Carthage, Phoenicia


Over decades it has been unclear how individual migratory songbirds cross large ecological barriers such as seas or deserts. By deploying light-level geolocators on four songbird species weighing only about 12 g, we found that these otherwise mainly nocturnal migrants seem to regularly extend their nocturnal flights into the day when crossing the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea. The proportion of the proposed diurnally flying birds gradually declined over the day with similar landing patterns in autumn and spring. The prolonged flights were slightly more frequent in spring than in autumn, suggesting tighter migratory schedules when returning to breeding sites. Often we found several patterns for barrier crossing for the same individual in autumn compared to the spring journey. As only a small proportion of the birds flew strictly during the night and even some individuals might have flown non-stop, we suggest that prolonged endurance flights are not an exception even in small migratory species. We emphasise an individual’s ability to perform both diurnal and nocturnal migration when facing the challenge of crossing a large ecological barrier to successfully complete a migratory journey.

Concepts: Sahara, Mediterranean Sea, Bird, Tunisia, Songbird, Algeria, Morocco, Libya


Abstract The mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variant T16189C has been investigated in several metabolic diseases. In this study, we aimed to estimate the frequency of the T16189C variant in Tunisian and other Mediterranean populations and to evaluate the impact of this variant on the phylogeny of Mediterranean populations. Blood sample of 240 unrelated Tunisian subjects were recruited from several Tunisian localities. The hypervariable region 1 of the mtDNA were amplified and sequenced. Additional sequences (N = 4921) from Mediterranean populations were compiled from previous studies. The average frequency of T16189C variant in Tunisia (29%) is similar to that observed in North African and Near Eastern populations. Our findings showed positive correlation of the T16189C variant with Sub-Saharan and North African lineages, while a negative correlation was found with the Eurasian haplogroups, reaching its maximum with the Eurasian haplogroup H. The principal component analyses showed a high internal heterogeneity between Tunisian localities. At the Mediterranean scale, Tunisians are closer to North African (Algerian and Moroccan) and Near Eastern populations (Syrians and Palestinians) than to Europeans.

Concepts: DNA, Mitochondrion, Africa, Genetic genealogy, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Human mitochondrial DNA haplogroup


Abstract Tunisia is located at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa. This position might lead to numerous waves of migrations, contributing to the current genetic landscape of Tunisians. In this study, we analyzed 815 mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences from Tunisia in order to characterize the mitochondrial DNA genetic structure of this region, to construct the processes for its composition and to compare it to other Mediterranean populations. To that end, additional 4206 mtDNA sequences were compiled from previous studies performed in African (1237), Near Eastern (231) and European (2738) populations. Both phylogenetic and statistical analyses were performed. This study confirmed the mosaic genetic structure of the Tunisian population with the predominance of the Eurasian lineages, followed by the Sub-Saharan and North African lineages. Among Tunisians, the highest haplogroup and haplotype diversity were observed in particular in the Capital Tunis. No significant differentiation was observed between both geographical (Northern versus Southern Tunisia) and different ethnic groups in Tunisia. Our results highlight the presence of outliers and most frequent unique sequences in Tunisia (10.2%) compared to 45 Mediterranean populations. Phylogenetic analysis showed that the majority of Tunisian localities were closer to North Africans and Near Eastern populations than to Europeans. The exception was found for Berbers from Jerba which are clustered with Sardinians and Valencians.

Concepts: Africa, North Africa, Sahara, Middle East, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Tunis


The genes CYP3A4 and CYP3A5 form part of a cluster of cytochrome P450 genes involved in drug metabolism reactions. The allelic variants of these genes CYP3A4*1B, CYP3A4*3, CYP3A4*17 and CYP3A5*3 have been linked both to the reduced catalytic activity of cytochromes and to prostate cancer risk in whites, though scarce data exist for North African populations. The main objective of this study was to describe CYP3A4*3, CYP3A4*17, CYP3A4*1B and CYP3A5*3 allele frequencies and haplotype variation in Moroccan Berbers and the general Tunisian population. The data obtained for the Tunisian participants were consistent with the European allele frequency ranges described, while Moroccan Berbers showed high frequencies of CYP3A4*17 (1.8%), CYP3A4*3 (8.5%) and the CYP3A4*1B/CYP3A5*3 haplotype (18.4%). This haplotype, linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer, was detected at a much higher frequency compared with the present Tunisian population (8.4%) or with reported frequencies for populations such as whites (0.6%) or African Americans (5.3%).

Concepts: Genetics, Evolution, Metabolism, Africa, Genetic genealogy, Cytochrome P450, Tunisia, Berber people


The demographic history of human populations in North Africa has been characterized by complex processes of admixture and isolation that have modeled its current gene pool. Diverse genetic ancestral components with different origins (autochthonous, European, Middle Eastern, and sub-Saharan) and genetic heterogeneity in the region have been described. In this complex genetic landscape, Algeria, the largest country in Africa, has been poorly covered, with most of the studies using a single Algerian sample. In order to evaluate the genetic heterogeneity of Algeria, Y-chromosome, mtDNA and autosomal genome-wide makers have been analyzed in several Berber- and Arab-speaking groups. Our results show that the genetic heterogeneity found in Algeria is not correlated with geography or linguistics, challenging the idea of Berber groups being genetically isolated and Arab groups open to gene flow. In addition, we have found that external sources of gene flow into North Africa have been carried more often by females than males, while the North African autochthonous component is more frequent in paternally transmitted genome regions. Our results highlight the different demographic history revealed by different markers and urge to be cautious when deriving general conclusions from partial genomic information or from single samples as representatives of the total population of a region.

Concepts: Africa, North Africa, Sahara, Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Libya


The painted lady, Vanessa cardui, is a migratory butterfly that performs an annual multi-generational migration between Europe and North Africa. Its seasonal appearance south of the Sahara in autumn is well known and has led to the suggestion that it results from extremely long migratory flights by European butterflies to seasonally exploit the Sahel and the tropical savannah. However, this possibility has remained unproven. Here, we analyse the isotopic composition of butterflies from seven European and seven African countries to provide new support for this hypothesis. Each individual was assigned a geographical natal origin, based on its wing stable hydrogen isotope (δ(2)Hw) value and a predicted δ(2)Hw basemap for Europe and northern Africa. Natal assignments of autumn migrants collected south of the Sahara confirmed long-distance movements (of 4000 km or more) starting in Europe. Samples from Maghreb revealed a mixed origin of migrants, with most individuals with a European origin, but others having originated in the Sahel. Therefore, autumn movements are not only directed to northwestern Africa, but also include southward and northward flights across the Sahara. Through this remarkable behaviour, the productive but highly seasonal region south of the Sahara is incorporated into the migratory circuit of V. cardui.

Concepts: Africa, North Africa, Sahara, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Western Sahara


Triloculotrema euzeti n. sp. (Monogenea, Monocotylidae, Merizocotylinae) is described from the nasal tissues of the blackspotted smooth-hound Mustelus punctulatus collected from the coastal marine waters off Tunisia. The new parasite species is distinguished from the other two species of the genus, T. japanicae Kearn, 1993 and T. chisholmae Justine, 2009, by the morphology of the sclerotised male copulatory organ which has longitudinal ridges. The species is also characterised by its oötype with short descending and ascending limbs (long and more convoluted in the other two species). The presence of three peripheral loculi, which is the main characteristic of the genus Triloculotrema Kearn, 1993, is unconfirmed. This is the first description of a species of this genus in the Mediterranean Sea and the first record from a coastal shark.

Concepts: Biology, Africa, Species, Mediterranean Sea, Tunisia, Marine debris, Sicily, Shark


Pseudorhabdosynochus Yamaguti, 1958 is a species-rich diplectanid genus, mainly restricted to the gills of groupers (Epinephelidae) and especially abundant in warm seas. Species from the Mediterranean are not fully documented. Two new and two previously known species from the gills of Mycteroperca spp. (M. costae, M. rubra, and M. marginata) in the Mediterranean and Eastern Atlantic Ocean are described here from new material and slides kept in collections. Identifications of newly collected fish were ascertained by barcoding of cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) sequences. Pseudorhabdosynochus beverleyburtonae (Oliver, 1984) Kritsky & Beverley-Burton, 1986 and P. sosia Neifar & Euzet 2007 are redescribed from type-specimens and new specimens collected off Tunisia and Libya from M. marginata and M. costae, respectively. Pseudorhabdosynochus oliveri n. sp., from M. marginata (type-host) off the Mediterranean coast of France (type-locality), is described from specimens found among voucher specimens of P. beverleyburtonae deposited by Guy Oliver in the collection of the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris. Pseudorhabdosynochus oliveri is distinguished by the shape of its sclerotised vagina; it was not found in the other localities investigated. Pseudorhabdosynochus hayet n. sp. is described from M. rubra (type host) off Senegal (type-locality) and Tunisia. Pseudorhabdosynochus hayet is morphologically similar to P. sosia (type-host: M. costae) but was distinguished by differences in measurements of the vagina and male copulatory organ, different host, and divergent COI sequences. The four species (P. beverleyburtonae, P. sosia, P. oliveri, and P. hayet) share common characteristics such as squamodiscs with 2 innermost circular rows of rodlets and a similar general structure of the sclerotised vagina; we propose to group them into a ‘beverleyburtonae group’ within Pseudorhabdosynochus.

Concepts: Africa, Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, Europe, Tunisia, Ocean, Cytochrome c, Libya