Aim Climatic changes have strongly reshaped the Western Palaearctic biota throughout the Late Pleistocene. For animals, most studies so far have focused on species having low to moderate dispersal abilities, while strong dispersers have remained understudied, despite their abundance. With the aim of contributing to filling this gap, we here investigate the Late Pleistocene evolutionary history of one such species, the mosquito Aedes caspius.
Location Western Palaearctic.
Methods Sequences of the cytochrome c oxidase subunits I and II mitochondrial DNA genes were analysed in individuals from 16 sampling localities. The phylogeographic structure was investigated using phylogenetic network analysis, permutational contingency tests, spatial analysis of molecular variance, and correlation of genetic and geographic distances between populations. Historical demographic changes were investigated by analysing the mismatch distributions, the Bayesian skyline plot method and Fu’s FS statistic.
Results We observed 67 haplotypes over all 112 individuals analysed (haplotype diversity = 0.971; nucleotide diversity = 0.0067). Despite the substantial genetic diversity, we found neither strong phylogenetic divergence among haplotypes (uncorrected mean sequence divergence 0.8%) nor any phylogeographic structure across the study area. The historical demographic analyses suggested that the species maintained a stable population size until roughly 25,000 years ago, when it underwent a sudden demographic expansion.
Main conclusions Our data suggest that during the last glacial stage, A. caspius did not undergo dramatic range fragmentation in separate glacial refugia. Rather, the species is likely to have persisted in largely interconnected populations throughout most of the region, in areas with suitable environmental conditions. This scenario adds to similar patterns emerging for other temperate regions of the world, suggesting that an important component of the evolutionary history of temperate biotas has hitherto been largely overlooked.