Publication Details

Slatyer, R. A., Nash, M. A., Miller, A. D., Endo, Y., Umbers, K. DL. & Hoffmann, A. A. (2014). Strong genetic structure corresponds to small-scale geographic breaks in the Australian alpine grasshopper Kosciuscola tristis. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 14 (October), 204-1-204-13.


Background Mountain landscapes are topographically complex, creating discontinuous 'islands' of alpine and sub-alpine habitat with a dynamic history. Changing climatic conditions drive their expansion and contraction, leaving signatures on the genetic structure of their flora and fauna. Australia's high country covers a small, highly fragmented area. Although the area is thought to have experienced periods of relative continuity during Pleistocene glacial periods, small-scale studies suggest deep lineage divergence across low-elevation gaps. Using both DNA sequence data and microsatellite markers, we tested the hypothesis that genetic partitioning reflects observable geographic structuring across Australia's mainland high country, in the widespread alpine grasshopper Kosciuscola tristis (Sjösted). Results We found broadly congruent patterns of regional structure between the DNA sequence and microsatellite datasets, corresponding to strong divergence among isolated mountain regions. Small and isolated mountains in the south of the range were particularly distinct, with well-supported divergence corresponding to climate cycles during the late Pliocene and Pleistocene. We found mixed support, however, for divergence among other mountain regions. Interestingly, within areas of largely contiguous alpine and sub-alpine habitat around Mt Kosciuszko, microsatellite data suggested significant population structure, accompanied by a strong signature of isolation-by-distance. Conclusions Consistent patterns of strong lineage divergence among different molecular datasets indicate genetic breaks between populations inhabiting geographically distinct mountain regions. Three primary phylogeographic groups were evident in the highly fragmented Victorian high country, while within-region structure detected with microsatellites may reflect more recent population isolation. Despite the small area of Australia's alpine and sub-alpine habitats, their low topographic relief and lack of extensive glaciation, divergence among populations was on the same scale as that detected in much more extensive Northern hemisphere mountain systems. The processes driving divergence in the Australian mountains might therefore differ from their Northern hemisphere counterparts.



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