Phylogeography of spruce beetles (Dendroctonus rufipennis Kirby) (Curculionidae: Scolytinae) in North America


Richard G. Harrison, Fax: (607) 255-8088; E-mail:


Tree-feeding insects that are widespread in north temperate regions are excellent models for studying how past glaciations have impacted differentiation and speciation. We used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences and allele frequencies at nine microsatellite loci to examine genetic population structure across the current range of the spruce beetle (Dendroctonus rufipennis), an economically important insect in North America. Two major haplotype groups occur across northern North America, from Newfoundland to Alaska, on white spruce (Picea glauca), and a third distinctive haplotype group occurs throughout the Rocky Mountains on Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii). The two mtDNA lineages found in northern populations are 3–4% divergent from each other and from the lineages found in the Rocky Mountains. Analyses of microsatellite data also suggest the existence of major population groupings associated with different geographical regions. In the Pacific Northwest, concordant contact zones for genetically distinct populations of spruce beetles and their principal hosts appear to reflect recent secondary contact. Although we could detect no evidence of historical mtDNA gene flow between allopatric population groups, patterns of variation in the Pacific Northwest suggest recent hybridization and introgression. Together with the pollen record for spruce, they also suggest that beetles have spread from at least three glacial refugia. A minimum estimate of divergence time between the Rocky Mountain and northern populations was 1.7 Myr (million years), presumably reflecting the combined effects of isolation during multiple glacial cycles.