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Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (s.l.), the tick-borne agent of
Lyme borreliosis, is a bacterial species complex comprising 11 genospecies. Here, we discuss whether the delineation of genospecies is ecologically relevant. We provide evidence that B. burgdorferi s.l. is structured ecologically into distinct clusters that are host specific. An immunological model for niche adaptation is proposed that suggests the operation of complement-mediated selection in the midgut of the feeding tick. We conclude that vertebrate hosts rather than tick species are the key to
Lyme borreliosis spirochaete diversity.