Genetic and morphological divergence among Gravel Bank Grasshoppers, Chorthippus pullus (Acrididae), from contrasting environments
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- Ketmaier, V., Stuckas, H., Hempel, J. et al. Org Divers Evol (2010) 10: 381. doi:10.1007/s13127-010-0031-1
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Gravel Bank Grasshopper (Chorthippus pullus) populations inhabit two contrasting environments, pebbly gravel banks with scarce vegetation cover in mountainous areas along the Alps and lowland grasslands dominated by Common Heather (Calluna vulgaris). Heath populations of C. pullus have been rediscovered only recently, and show a distribution scattered across Central Europe. The wings are reduced in this species; thus, it has low potential for long-distance dispersal. We used sequence data on a newly developed non-coding nuclear marker from three gravel-bank and four heath populations to test whether grasshoppers from the two environments represent distinct lineages. Gravel-bank populations were studied in southern Germany (Bavaria), heath populations in eastern Germany (Brandenburg and Saxony) and Ukraine. We compared those genetic data with an analysis of variation in a suite of morphometric traits. Finally, we combined genetic and morphometric data to reconstruct a plausible scenario for the ecological shift observed in C. pullus. Our newly developed marker did not sort populations from contrasting environments in two monophyletic lineages. Nevertheless, we found a general lack of gene flow between the gravel-bank and heath populations. There was pronounced variation among populations in morphometric traits. That variation was partially partitioned by habitat type, and populations from the same habitat tended to be more similar than those from different habitats. Our data suggest that heath populations originated through northward expansion from multiple southern European refugia, and that the gravel-bank populations represent one of these sources. Patterns of genetic and morphometric divergence suggest that gravel-bank and heath populations may be in the process of incipient speciation.