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Admixed sexual and facultatively asexual aphid lineages at mating sites


F. Halkett. Fax: + 33 (0)2 23 48 51 50; E-mail:


Cyclically parthenogenetic organisms may have facultative asexual counterparts. Such organisms, including aphids, are therefore interesting models for the study of ecological and genetic interactions between lineages differing in reproductive mode. Earlier studies on aphids have revealed major differences in the genetic outcomes of populations that are possibly resulting mostly either from sexual or from asexual reproduction. Besides, notable gene flow between sexual and asexual derivatives has been suspected, which could lead to the emergence of new asexual lineages. The present study examines the interplay between these lineages and is based on analyses of population structure of individuals that may contribute to the pool of sexual reproductive forms in the host alternating aphid Rhopalosiphum padi. Using a Bayesian assignment method, we first show that the sexual forms of R. padi on mating sites encompass two genetically distinct clusters of individuals in the western part of France. The first cluster included unique genotypes of sexual lineages, while the second cluster included facultatively asexual lineages in numerous copies, the reproductive mode of the two clusters being confirmed by reference clones. Sexual reproductive forms produced by sexual and facultatively asexual lineages are thus admixed at mating sites which gives a large opportunity for the two clusters to mate with each other. Nevertheless, this study also highlights, as previously demonstrated, that the two clusters retained high genetic differentiation. Possible explanations for the inferred limited genetic exchanges are advanced in the discussion, but further dedicated investigations are required to solve this paradox.