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Keywords:

  • conservation genetics;
  • mitochondria] DNA;
  • phylogenetic species concept;
  • polymerase chain reaction

Abstract

Populations of the puritan tiger beetle Cicindela puritana in the eastern United States were found to be highly threatened at the Connecticut River, whereas several large populations on the western shore and newly discovered populations on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay appeared to be less endangered. We assessed if the disjunct C. puritana subgroups are genetically distinct and therefore should be treated as separate units for conservation purposes. A total of 13 individuals from the Connecticut River and 27 individuals from the Chesapeake Bay were each analysed by sequencing of up to 837 base pairs of mitochondrial DNA per individual. Five different haplotypes could be distinguished. In a phylogenetic analysis of these DNA sequences that included four related Cicindela species as out-groups, haplotypes from the Chesapeake Bay represent a distinct clade. The conservation status of these populations was evaluated using a phylogenetic approach based on cladistic analysis and the framework of the phylogenetic species concept. According to this analysis, beetles from the Connecticut River and the Chesapeake Bay have to be considered as independent units. Populations from the eastern and western shore of Chesapeake Bay are not split in more than one unit using the same criteria, although they exhibited some degree of genetic subdivision. The results from the mtDNA analysis were corroborated by ecological parameters in that the Chesapeake Bay populations can be distinguished from all congeners by their different tat association.