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Bull Entomol Res. 2013 Feb;103(1):74-88. doi: 10.1017/S0007485312000429. Epub 2012 Aug 29.

Novel microsatellite DNA markers indicate strict parthenogenesis and few genotypes in the invasive willow sawfly Nematus oligospilus.

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  • 1Australian Centre for Biodiversity, School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia.


Invasive organisms can have major impacts on the environment. Some invasive organisms are parthenogenetic in their invasive range and, therefore, exist as a number of asexual lineages (=clones). Determining the reproductive mode of invasive species has important implications for understanding the evolutionary genetics of such species, more especially, for management-relevant traits. The willow sawfly Nematus oligospilus Förster (Hymenoptera: Tenthredinidae) has been introduced unintentionally into several countries in the Southern Hemisphere where it has subsequently become invasive. To assess the population expansion, reproductive mode and host-plant relationships of this insect, microsatellite markers were developed and applied to natural populations sampled from the native and expanded range, along with sequencing of the cytochrome-oxidase I mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) region. Other tenthredinids across a spectrum of taxonomic similarity to N. oligospilus and having a range of life strategies were also tested. Strict parthenogenesis was apparent within invasive N. oligospilus populations throughout the Southern Hemisphere, which comprised only a small number of genotypes. Sequences of mtDNA were identical for all individuals tested in the invasive range. The microsatellite markers were used successfully in several sawfly species, especially Nematus spp. and other genera of the Nematini tribe, with the degree of success inversely related to genetic divergence as estimated from COI sequences. The confirmation of parthenogenetic reproduction in N. oligospilus and the fact that it has a very limited pool of genotypes have important implications for understanding and managing this species and its biology, including in terms of phenotypic diversity, host relationships, implications for spread and future adaptive change. It would appear to be an excellent model study system for understanding evolution of invasive parthenogens that diverge without sexual reproduction and genetic recombination.

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