Environmentally related patterns of reproductive modes in the aphid Myzus persicae and the predominance of two ‘superclones’ in Victoria, Australia


Dr Christoph Vorburger. Fax: + 61 3 9479 2480; E-mail: c.vorburger@latrobe.edu.au


Asexual organisms that naturally coexist with sexual relatives may hold the key to understanding the maintenance of sex and recombination, a long-standing problem in evolutionary biology. This situation applies to the peach-potato aphid, Myzus persicae, in southeastern Australia where cyclical parthenogens form mixed populations with obligate parthenogens. We collected M. persicae from several areas across Victoria, genotyped them at seven microsatellite loci and experimentally determined their reproductive mode. The geographic distribution of reproductive modes was correlated with two environmental variables that differentially affect obligate and cyclical parthenogens; obligate parthenogens were less frequent in areas with cold winters because they cannot produce frost-resistant eggs while cyclical parthenogens were limited by the availability of their primary host, peach, on which sexual reproduction takes place. Clonal diversity increased with the proportion of cyclical parthenogens in a sample because they tended to have unique microsatellite genotypes, whereas many obligate parthenogens were copies of the same genotype. Two obligately asexual genotypes stood out as being very abundant and widespread, one constituting 24% and the other 17.4% of the entire collection. Both of these highly successful genotypes were present in the majority of all collection sites. Genetic population structure was weak, albeit significant, with a multilocus FST of only 0.021 when samples were reduced to only one representative of each genotype. Interestingly, obligate parthenogens were, on average, more heterozygous and exhibited larger allele size differences between the two alleles at individual loci than cyclical parthenogens. This striking pattern could result from hybridization, for which we have no evidence, or may reflect the previously proposed model of biased mutational divergence of microsatellite alleles within asexual aphid lineages.