Microevolution, low clonal diversity and genetic affinities of parthenogenetic Sitobion aphids in New Zealand


A. Wilson.*Present address: Division of Botany and Zoology, The Australian National University, ACT, 0200, Australia. Fax: +612-6249-5573; E-mail:Alex.Wilson@anu.edu.au


In sharp contrast to their southeast Asian and European counterparts, Sitobion miscanthi and S. near fragariae aphids in Australia exhibit a complete absence of sexual reproduction. This demands an explanation within the context of the evolution and maintenance of sex and parthenogenesis. Accordingly, we executed a genetic analysis of the two species in neighbouring New Zealand. Microsatellites and single-stranded conformation polymorphism/sequence analysis of the nuclear gene elongation factor 1α were used to identify aphid clones and confirm species identification, respectively. Karyotypic variation was also investigated. The New Zealand fauna showed few (nonrecombining) genotypes and appears to have received migrants from both Australia and Asia. Other genotypes have apparently arisen in situ in New Zealand, exhibiting stepwise mutation of microsatellite alleles and also karyotypic change. Thus, these data represent rare evidence of evolution within wild-living parthenogenetic lineages. Karyotypic changes appear to occur at a rate even greater than that of microsatellite evolution. Strong geographical partitioning of genotypes/karyotypes was found, with certain ones predominating over large areas. These data suggest that clonal selection could be important in the distribution and patterning of genetic variation. We present a model to explain the genetic patterns, with particular reference to the absence of sexual reproduction in Sitobion aphids in New Zealand and Australia.