The blowfly Chrysomya latifrons inhabits fragmented rainforests, but shows no population structure
Climate change and deforestation are causing rainforests to become increasingly fragmented, placing them at heightened risk of biodiversity loss. Invertebrates constitute the greatest proportion of this biodiversity, yet we lack basic knowledge of their population structure and ecology. There is a compelling need to develop our understanding of the population dynamics of a wide range of rainforest invertebrates so that we can begin to understand how rainforest fragments are connected, and how they will cope with future habitat fragmentation and climate change. Blowflies are an ideal candidate for such research because they are widespread, abundant, and can be easily collected within rainforests. We genotyped 188 blowflies (Chrysomya latifrons) from 15 isolated rainforests and found high levels of gene flow, a lack of genetic structure between rainforests, and low genetic diversity – suggesting the presence of a single large genetically depauperate population. This highlights that: (1) the blowfly Ch. latifrons inhabits a ~ 1000 km stretch of Australian rainforests, where it plays an important role as a nutrient recycler; (2) strongly dispersing flies can migrate between and connect isolated rainforests, likely carrying pollen, parasites, phoronts, and pathogens along with them; and (3) widely dispersing and abundant insects can nevertheless be genetically depauperate. There is an urgent need to better understand the relationships between habitat fragmentation, genetic diversity, and adaptive potential–especially for poorly dispersing rainforest-restricted insects, as many of these may be particularly fragmented and at highest risk of local extinction.
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Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales