• genetic diversity;
  • genetic structure;
  • microsatellites;
  • Mioscirtus wagneri;
  • orthoptera;
  • population fragmentation


The genetic consequences of population fragmentation and isolation are major issues in conservation biology. In this study we analyse the genetic variability and structure of the Iberian populations of Mioscirtus wagneri, a specialized grasshopper exclusively inhabiting highly fragmented hypersaline low grounds. For this purpose we have used seven species-specific microsatellite markers to type 478 individuals from 24 localities and obtain accurate estimates of their genetic variability. Genetic diversity was relatively low and we detected genetic signatures suggesting that certain populations of M. wagneri have probably passed through severe demographic bottlenecks. We have found that the populations of this grasshopper show a strong genetic structure even at small geographical scales, indicating that they mostly behave as isolated populations with low levels of gene flow among them. Thus, several populations can be regarded as independent and genetically differentiated units which require adequate conservation strategies to avoid eventual extinctions that in highly isolated localities are not likely to be compensated for with the arrival of immigrants from neighbouring populations. Overall, our results show that these populations probably represent the ‘fragments’ of a formerly more widespread population and highlight the importance of protecting Iberian hypersaline environments due to the high number of rare and endangered species they sustain.