Identity of an endangered grasshopper (Acrididae: Brachaspis): Taxonomy, molecules and conservation
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- Trewick, S.A. Conservation Genetics (2001) 2: 233. doi:10.1023/A:1012263717279
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Brachaspis robustus is an endangeredgrasshopper endemic to South Island, NewZealand. It is both rare and localised;occupying low altitude floodplain terraces andbraided riverbeds of the Mackenzie Basin. Thisis in stark contrast to the two other speciesin this genus (B. nivalis and B.collinus) which occupy montane habitats.Mitochondrial and nuclear sequence data wereemployed to explore genetic diversity andphylogenetic relationships of populations ofBrachaspis with a view to establishingthe status of B. robustus. Molecularevidence indicates that Brachaspisprobably radiated during the Pliocene and thatdivisions within the genus relate more tospatial distribution developed during thePleistocene than to ecology. The mitochondrial(Cytochrome oxidase I) and nuclear (ITS)sequence data indicate that Brachaspisnivalis is divided into northern and southernpopulations. The northern clade is furthersubdivided geographically. The southern cladecomprises alpine populations of B.nivalis and includes the lowland B.robustus. Additionally, it is observed thatsome morphological features previously thoughtto be specific to B. robustus also occurin members of the southern B. nivalisclade. It is suggested that the taxon B.robustus should include all of the southernBrachaspis populations. But it is arguedthat the absence of genetic evidencedistinguishing the endangered population doesnot preclude it from conservation effort. Acombination of morphological and habitatpeculiarities indicate that the survival ofB. robustus (sensu lato) isimportant to the maintenance of diversity.