AbstractA number of insect species undergo annual and strikingly long-distance migrations. While the census sizes appear to be very large in many of these species, our understanding of their population genetics and interpopulation connectivity remains elusive. Here, we summarize the utility and limitations of mitochondrial DNA barcodes to assess migratory patterns and genetic connectivity among populations of four well-known species of long-distance, multigenerational insect migrants, the butterflies Danaus plexippus and Vanessa cardui, and the dragonflies Pantala flavescens and Anax junius. We contrast the differences between the two butterfly species, which show low genetic diversity and little or no phylogeographic structuring, with the two dragonfly species which show an intriguing pattern of high genetic diversity and no apparent phylogeographic structure. Although a recent population genetic study of P. flavescens reported high gene flow and reduced (or diminished) COI genetic diversity across widely separated geographic regions, suggesting global panmixia, reanalysis of the data from that study revealed high genetic diversity in agreement with other studies on both P. flavescens and A. junius. The presence of isolated populations of P. flavescens, such as found on Easter Island that appear non-migratory, as well as evidence for significant structure among some migratory populations, suggest that concluding global panmixia in P. flavescens may be premature. We also suggest that cost-effective barcode analyses would be the method of choice for preliminary analyses of large data sets required to assess migratory routes and connectivity among populations on a global scale.
Biological Journal of the Linnean Society – Oxford University Press
Published: Oct 1, 2017
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