Speciation and chromosomal rearrangements in the Australian Morabine Grasshopper Vandiemenella viatica species group

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Copyright: Kawakami, Takeshi
Recent theoretical developments have led to a renewed interest in the potential role of chromosomal rearrangements in speciation. Australian morabine grasshoppers (genus Vandiemenella, viatica species group) provide an excellent study system to test this potential role, because they show extensive chromosomal variation: 12 chromosomal races/species with parapatric distributions. The research in this thesis involves the application of molecular genetic analyses to examine patterns of gene introgression among chromosomal races of Vandiemenella at three different spatial scales: local-scale hybrid zone analysis, island-scale phylogeography, and continental-scale phylogeography. The aims of these multi-scale analyses are to investigate whether chromosomal races represent genetically distinct taxa with limited gene flow, and to infer the historical biogeography of Vandiemenella and evolutionary origins of their parapatric distributions. Karyotype and 11 nuclear markers revealed a remarkably narrow hybrid zone with substantial linkage disequilibrium and strong deficits of heterozygotes between the chromosome races P24(XY) and viatica17 on Kangaroo Island, suggesting that the zone is maintained by a balance between dispersal and selection against hybrids (tension zone). Selection that maintains the stable hybrid zone is unlikely to be operating only on loci linked to rearranged chromosomes. Island-scale and continental-scale phylogeography using multiple nuclear markers indicated that Vandiemenella chromosome races/species generally represent genetically distinct taxa with reduced gene flow between them. In contrast, analyses of a mitochondrial gene showed the presence of distinctive and geographically localised phylogroups that do not correspond with the distribution of the Vandiemenella taxa. These discordant population genetic patterns are likely to result from introgressive hybridization between the taxa and range expansions and contractions. Overall, our molecular analyses favour the allopatric mode of diversification for the evolution of Vandiemenella and do not support the stasipatric speciation model of White (1978). Patterns of genetic differentiation between the chromosomal races analysed at three different spatial scales show dynamic responses of the grasshoppers to past climatic fluctuations, leading to opportunities for long-term isolation and allopatric fixation of new chromosome variants and molecular mutations at many loci. Further analyses are necessary to assess potential roles of chromosomal rearrangements in facilitating diversification in Vandiemenella by reducing recombination within the rearranged chromosome segments.
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Kawakami, Takeshi
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PhD Doctorate
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