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Keywords:

  • Bolitotherus cornutus ;
  • community diversity;
  • environmental heterogeneity;
  • resource-associated population structure

Abstract

In heterogeneous environments, landscape features directly affect the structure of genetic variation among populations by functioning as barriers to gene flow. Resource-associated population genetic structure, in which populations that use different resources (e.g., host plants) are genetically distinct, is a well-studied example of how environmental heterogeneity structures populations. However, the pattern that emerges in a given landscape should depend on its particular combination of resources. If resources constitute barriers to gene flow, population differentiation should be lowest in homogeneous landscapes, and highest where resources exist in equal proportions. In this study, we tested whether host community diversity affects population genetic structure in a beetle (Bolitotherus cornutus) that exploits three sympatric host fungi. We collected B. cornutus from plots containing the three host fungi in different proportions and quantified population genetic structure in each plot using a panel of microsatellite loci. We found no relationship between host community diversity and population differentiation in this species; however, we also found no evidence of resource-associated differentiation, suggesting that host fungi are not substantial barriers to gene flow. Moreover, we detected no genetic differentiation among B. cornutus populations separated by several kilometers, even though a previous study demonstrated moderate genetic structure on the scale of a few hundred meters. Although we found no effect of community diversity on population genetic structure in this study, the role of host communities in the structuring of genetic variation in heterogeneous landscapes should be further explored in a species that exhibits resource-associated population genetic structure.