, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 219-233,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 19 May 2012

Isolation by distance in saproxylic beetles may increase with niche specialization


Species confined to temporally stable habitats are usually susceptible to habitat fragmentation, as living in long-lasting habitats is predicted to constrain evolution of dispersal ability. In Europe, saproxylic invertebrates associated with tree hollows are currently threatened due to the severe fragmentation of their habitat, but data on the population genetic consequences of such habitat decline are still scarce. By employing AFLP markers, we compared the spatial genetic structure of two ecologically and taxonomically related beetle species, Osmoderma barnabita and Protaetia marmorata (Cetoniidae). Both species are exclusively associated with tree hollows, but O. barnabita has a more restricted host preferences compared to P. marmorata. Analyses of spatial autocorrelation showed, in line with the predicted low dispersal potential of these saproxylic beetles, that both species are characterized by a strong kinship structure, which was more pronounced in the specialist O. barnabita than in the generalist P. marmorata. Individuals of both species sampled within single trees showed high relatedness (≈0.50 in O. barnabita and ≈0.15 in P. marmorata). Interestingly, groups of pheromone-emitting O. barnabita males sampled on the same tree trunk were found to be full brothers. Whether this result can be explained by kin selection to increase attraction of conspecific females for mating or by severe inbreeding of beetles within individual tree hollows needs further study. Although our studied populations were significantly inbred, our results suggest that the dispersal ability of Osmoderma beetles may be one order of magnitude greater than suggested by previous dispersal studies and acceptable levels of habitat fragmentation for metapopulation survival may be bigger than previously thought.