Molecular and quantitative genetic differentiation across Europe in yellow dung flies


Marco Demont, Zoological Museum, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH 8057 Zurich, Switzerland.
Tel.: +41 44 635 47 79; fax: +41 44 635 47 80; e-mail:


Relating geographic variation in quantitative traits to underlying population structure is crucial for understanding processes driving population differentiation, isolation and ultimately speciation. Our study represents a comprehensive population genetic survey of the yellow dung fly Scathophaga stercoraria, an important model organism for evolutionary and ecological studies, over a broad geographic scale across Europe (10 populations from the Swiss Alps to Iceland). We simultaneously assessed differentiation in five quantitative traits (body size, development time, growth rate, proportion of diapausing individuals and duration of diapause), to compare differentiation in neutral marker loci (FST) to that of quantitative traits (QST). Despite long distances and uninhabitable areas between sampled populations, population structuring was very low but significant (FST = 0.007, 13 microsatellite markers; FST = 0.012, three allozyme markers; FST = 0.007, markers combined). However, only two populations (Iceland and Sweden) showed significant allelic differentiation to all other populations. We estimated high levels of gene flow [effective number of migrants (Nm) = 6.2], there was no isolation by distance, and no indication of past genetic bottlenecks (i.e. founder events) and associated loss of genetic diversity in any northern or island population. In contrast to the low population structure, quantitative traits were strongly genetically differentiated among populations, following latitudinal clines, suggesting that selection is responsible for life history differentiation in yellow dung flies across Europe.