Patterns of population subdivision and gene flow in the ant Nothomyrmecia macrops reflected in microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA markers

Authors

  • M. Sanetra,

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    1. Department of Zoology and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia
      Dr Matthias Sanetra. Present address: Department of Zoology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Konstanz, 78457 Konstanz, Germany. Fax: +49 7531 88 3018; E-mail: matthias.sanetra@uni-konstanz.de
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  • R. H. Crozier

    1. Department of Zoology and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia
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Dr Matthias Sanetra. Present address: Department of Zoology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Konstanz, 78457 Konstanz, Germany. Fax: +49 7531 88 3018; E-mail: matthias.sanetra@uni-konstanz.de

Abstract

The Australian endemic ant Nothomyrmecia macrops is renowned for having retained a large proportion of ‘primitive’ morphological and behavioural characters. Another less studied peculiarity of this species is the production of short-winged (brachypterous) female sexuals, which presumably are poor dispersers. The males, in contrast, bear a full set of normally developed wings and thus may disperse widely. We investigated patterns of genetic differentiation within and among three distantly separated populations in South Australia using nine polymorphic microsatellite loci and four regions of mitochondrial DNA (COI, COII, Cytb, lrRNA). We sampled eight subpopulations, one in the Lake Gilles CP, two near Penong and five around Poochera where distances ranged from 360 km to sites separated by 2–10 km. Only little differentiation was found at the local scale (within the assumed dispersal distance of males) using nuclear markers, whereas the three distant locations were moderately differentiated (FST = 0.06). Mitochondrial DNA genetic structure was much more pronounced on all scales (φST = 0.98), with regular differences in both haplotype composition and frequency even occurring among closely located sites. This lack of congruence between nuclear and mitochondrial markers strongly suggests limited female dispersal and male-biased gene flow among populations. As to the conservation status of the species there is no evidence for severe population reductions in the recent past, which would have left populations genetically depauperate.

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