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Evidence for frozen-niche variation in a cosmopolitan parthenogenetic soil mite species (Acari, Oribatida).

ABSTRACT: Parthenogenetic lineages may colonize marginal areas of the range of related sexual species or coexist with sexual species in the same habitat. Frozen-Niche-Variation and General-Purpose-Genotype are two hypotheses suggesting that competition and interclonal selection result in parthenogenetic populations being either genetically diverse or rather homogeneous. The cosmopolitan parthenogenetic oribatid mite Oppiella nova has a broad ecological phenotype and is omnipresent in a variety of habitats. Morphological variation in body size is prominent in this species and suggests adaptation to distinct environmental conditions. We investigated genetic variance and body size of five independent forest - grassland ecotones. Forests and grasslands were inhabited by distinct genetic lineages with transitional habitats being colonized by both genetic lineages from forest and grassland. Notably, individuals of grasslands were significantly larger than individuals in forests. These differences indicate the presence of specialized genetic lineages specifically adapted to either forests or grasslands which coexist in transitional habitats. Molecular clock estimates suggest that forest and grassland lineages separated 16-6 million years ago, indicating long-term persistence of these lineages in their respective habitat. Long-term persistence, and morphological and genetic divergence imply that drift and environmental factors result in the evolution of distinct parthenogenetic lineages resembling evolution in sexual species. This suggests that parthenogenetic reproduction is not an evolutionary dead end.

SUBMITTER: von Saltzwedel H 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC4237384 | BioStudies | 2014-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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