Identifying glacial refugia in a geographic parthenogen using palaeoclimate modelling and phylogeography: the New Zealand stick insect Argosarchus horridus (White)


  • Thomas Buckley studies the evolution, biogeography, systematics and conservation genetics of New Zealand terrestrial invertebrates. His major study groups include stick insects, cicadas and beetles. He is interested in the effects of environment change on the evolutionary history of invertebrate species. Katharine Marske is a PhD student at Landcare Research and the University of Auckland working on the comparative phylogeography of New Zealand forest beetles. Dilini Attanayake worked in the Ecological Genetics Laboratory, Landcare Research, as a research technician.

Thomas R. Buckley, Fax: 64 9 5744116; E-mail:


We have used phylogeographic analysis of mitochondrial DNA (COI and COII genes) and ecological niche modelling (ENM) to reconstruct the population history of Argosarchus horridus (White), a widespread species of New Zealand stick insect. These data were used to address outstanding questions on the role of glacial refugia in determining the distribution and genetic structure of New Zealand species. Phylogeographic analysis shows a general pattern of high diversity in upper North Island and reduced diversity in lower North Island and South Island. The ENM indicates that during the last glacial maximum, A. horridus was largely restricted to refugia around coastal areas of North Island. The ENM also suggests refugia on the northeast coast of South Island and southeast coast of North Island and this prediction is verified by phylogeographic analysis, which shows a clade restricted to this region. Argosarchus horridus is also most likely a geographic parthenogen where males are much rarer at higher latitudes. The higher levels of genetic variation in northern, bisexual populations suggest southern and largely unisexual populations originated from southwardly expanding parthenogenetic lineages. Bayesian skyline analysis also provides support for a recent population size increase consistent with a large increase in geographic distribution in the late Pleistocene. These results exemplify the utility of integrating ENM and phylogeographic analysis in testing hypotheses on the origin of geographic parthenogenesis and effects of Pleistocene environmental change on biodiversity.