Elevated genetic diversity of mitochondrial genes in asexual populations of Bark Lice (‘Psocoptera’: Echmepteryx hageni)


Scott M. Shreve, Fax: 217 244 0729; E-mail: smshreve@illinois.edu


Asexual reproduction is commonly thought to be associated with low genetic diversity in animals. Echmepteryx hageni (Insecta: ‘Psocoptera’) is one of several psocopteran species that are primarily parthenogenetic, but also exists in small, isolated sexual populations. We used mitochondrial DNA sequences to investigate the population history and genealogical relationships between the sexual and asexual forms of this species. The asexual population of E. hageni exhibits extremely high mitochondrial haplotype diversity (H = 0.98), whereas the sexual forms had significantly lower haplotypic diversity (H = 0.25, after correcting for sample size). This diversity in asexuals represents one the greatest genetic diversities reported for asexual animals in the literature. Nucleotide diversities were also higher in asexual compared to sexual populations (π = 0.0071 vs. 0.00027). Compared to other reported estimates of π in insects, asexual nucleotide diversity is high, but not remarkably elevated. Three hypotheses might explain the elevated genetic diversity of asexual populations: (i) larger effective population size, (ii) greater mutation rate or (iii) possible recent origin of sexuals. In addition, phylogeographic analysis revealed little geographic structure among asexual E. hageni, although specimens from the upper Midwest form a single clade and are genetically differentiated. The mismatch distribution and neutrality tests indicate a historical population size increase, possibly associated with expansion from glacial refugia.