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Mol Biol Evol. 2003 Oct;20(10):1626-32. Epub 2003 Jul 28.

Evolution of clonality and polyploidy in a weevil system.

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Department of Molecular Biology/Genetics, UmeƄ University, Sweden.


The increased interest in asexual organisms calls for in-depth studies of asexual complexes that actively give rise to new clones. We present an extensive molecular study of the Otiorhynchus scaber (Coleoptera, Curculionidae) weevil system. Three forms have traditionally been recognized: diploid sexuals, triploid, and tetraploid parthenogens. All forms coexist in a small central area, but only the polyploid parthenogens have colonized marginal areas. Analyzing the phylogenetic relationship, based on three partial mitochondrial genes, of 95 individuals from 19 populations, we find that parthenogenesis and polyploidy have originated at least three times from different diploid lineages. We observe two major mitochondrial lineages, with over 2.5% sequence divergence between the most basal groups within them, and find that current distribution and phylogenetic relationships are weakly correlated. Quite unexpectedly, we also discover diploid clones that coexist with, and are morphologically indistinguishable from, the diploid sexual females. Our results support that these diploid clones are derived directly from the diploid sexuals. We also find that it is mainly an increase in ploidy level and not the benefits of asexual reproduction that confers to polyploid parthenogens the advantage over their diploid sexual relatives.

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