• steppe;
  • population genetics;
  • host plant;
  • Wolbachia


Xerothermic species are rare and threatened in central and eastern Europe. In light of the continuing loss of steppe-like habitats due to anthropogenic fragmentation and degradation, the evaluation of genetic variation in populations inhabiting them is of immediate importance if appropriate conservation measures are to be undertaken. Here we report on the genetic diversity of the rare leaf beetle Crioceris quatuordecimpunctata, whose populations in central and eastern Europe inhabit highly geographically isolated areas. All of the studied populations (in Poland, Ukraine, and Slovakia) were differentiated at the mitochondrial marker COI. However, with respect to the nuclear marker ITS1, Polish populations were monomorphic, but distinct from all other populations. The distinctiveness of the studied populations was confirmed by Wolbachia screening, which showed that all populations carried different strains (one or two), which were probably transferred independently from other insects. On the other hand, no diversity was found in any marker within particular populations, which could be caused (at least for mtDNA) by a Wolbachia selective sweep. Crioceris quatuordecimpunctata probably consists of isolated populations, which went through narrow bottlenecks leading to a drastic reduction in their genetic diversity. As these populations are reciprocally monophyletic for mtDNA haplotypes and show a significant divergence of allele frequencies at nuclear loci, they could be classified as evolutionarily significant units (ESUs). In addition, DNA barcodes were used to identify Asparagus officinalis as the host plant for members of all studied populations. These data should be valuable in efforts to conserve populations of C. quatuordecimpunctata (e.g., for guiding reintroductions).