• asexual population;
  • COI;
  • genetic diversity;
  • microsatellite;
  • pea aphid;
  • reproductive mode


Many aphid species exhibit geographical variation in the mode of reproduction that ranges from cyclical parthenogenesis with a sexual phase to obligate parthenogenesis (asexual reproduction). Theoretical studies predict that organisms reproducing asexually should maintain higher allelic diversity per locus but lower genotypic diversity than organisms reproducing sexually. To corroborate this hypothesis, we evaluated genotypic and allelic diversities in the sexual and asexual populations of the pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum (Harris). Microsatellite analysis revealed that populations in central Japan are asexual, whereas populations in northern Japan are obligatorily sexual. No mixed populations were detected in our study sites. Phylogenetic analysis using microsatellite data and mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI) gene sequences revealed a long history of asexuality in central Japan and negated the possibility of the recent origin of the asexual populations from the sexual populations. Asexual populations exhibited much lower genotypic diversity but higher allelic richness per locus than did sexual populations. Asexual populations consisted of a few predominant clones that were considerably differentiated from one another. Sexual populations on alfalfa, an exotic plant in Japan, were most closely related to asexual populations associated with Vicia sativa L. The alfalfa-associated sexual populations harboured one COI haplotype that was included in the haplotype clade of the asexual populations. Available evidence suggests that the sexuality of the alfalfa-associated populations has recently been restored through the northward migration and colonization of alfalfa by V. sativa-associated lineages. Therefore, our results support the theoretical predictions and provide a new perspective on the origin of sexual populations.