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Keywords:

  • adaptive evolution;
  • genetic divergence;
  • genetic structure;
  • Locusta migratoria;
  • migration

Abstract

The migratory locust, Locusta migratoria, is the most widely distributed grasshopper species in the world. However, its global genetic structure and phylogeographic relationships have not been investigated. In this study, we explored the worldwide genetic structure and phylogeography of the locust populations based on the sequence information of 65 complete mitochondrial genomes and three mitochondrial genes of 263 individuals from 53 sampling sites. Although this locust can migrate over long distances, our results revealed high genetic differentiation among the geographic populations. The populations can be divided into two different lineages: the Northern lineage, which includes individuals from the temperate regions of the Eurasian continent, and the Southern lineage, which includes individuals from Africa, southern Europe, the Arabian region, India, southern China, South-east Asia and Australia. An analysis of population genetic diversity indicated that the locust species originated from Africa. Ancestral populations likely separated into Northern and Southern lineages 895 000 years ago by vicariance events associated with Pleistocene glaciations. These two lineages evolved in allopatry and occupied their current distributions in the world via distinct southern and northern dispersal routes. Genetic differences, caused by the long-term independent diversification of the two lineages, along with other factors, such as geographic barriers and temperature limitations, may play important roles in maintaining the present phylogeographic patterns. Our phylogeographic evidence challenged the long-held view of multiple subspecies in the locust species and tentatively divided it into two subspecies, L. m. migratoria and L. m. migratorioides.