Population genetics, phylogenetics and paternity analysis


Male K. tristis from three different populations showing clear morphological divergence: A:  Mt Kosciuszko,NSW; B: Mt Baw Baw, Vic; C: Mt Buffalo, Vic.

Male K. tristis from three different populations showing clear morphological divergence: A:  Mt Kosciuszko,NSW; B: Mt Baw Baw, Vic; C: Mt Buffalo, Vic.

Kosciuscola genetics: population genomics, microsatellites, pseudogenes and phylogenetics

Having spent the three years previous working with Adam Stow and David Briscoe on Australian native bee genetics, Kate expected to have completed the data collection for her PhD on grasshopper population genetics and phylogenetics in the first year of her PhD. Genome gigantism and remarkably common pseudogenes made for a much more challenging time than expected. By the end of her PhD she managed to publish a primer note for K. tristis microsatellites and a two-gene mitochondrial phylogeny for the Kosciuscola genus. She was frustrated, but had contributed knowledge and laid foundations for future work. In fact, Rachel Slatyer picked up the genetics baton as part of her PhD and generated some great data on the population genetics of Koscuscola tristis. Now in collaboration with the project below, we will nail these genetics once and for all (hopefully)!

Population genomics of Kosciuscola grasshoppers

Funded by the Hermon Slade Foundation, we are collaborating with Rachel Slatyer and Hojun Song on a project led by Nikolai Tatarnic, on the population genomics of Kosciuscola across their montane range. Below the project background from the Hermon Slade website is included, for more information you can visit it here.

Formed over 600 million years, Australia’s alpine landscape exhibits high levels of endemism. For example,  approximately 25% of Australia’s alpine plants are endemic. Though it is the highest bioregion in Australia, due to its extreme age the Australian Alps have been weathered over millennia, with few peaks exceeding 2000 m. For alpine specialists, these peaks are isolated habitats - sky islands - and in species with low dispersal capability, such as flightless insects, the potential for reproductive isolation and speciation is high. The grasshopper genus Kosciuscola currently includes 5 species, all endemic to the Australian Alps. Our recent research has uncovered a hidden diversity of cryptic species within the genus. Preliminary collecting across the Snowy Mountains have revealed a recurring assemblage of 3-4 Kosciuscola species on multiple peaks, but not necessarily the same species. Though they have historically been considered as such, we believe that multiple suites of species exist across the Alpine region, representing multiple speciation events. This natural replication affords us a unique opportunity to look at broad patterns of speciation mediated by vicariance and climatic specialization, and may help us predict how Alpine communities will respond to continuing climate change.


Numbers of sires that contribute to C. klassi clutches

Numbers of sires that contribute to C. klassi clutches

Paternity in Ciulfina praying mantis

Microsatellite markers show variation in the number of fathers per clutch in two closely related species of Ciulfina praying mantis with only a single father per clutch for Ciulfina rentzi compared to up to four fathers per clutch for C. klassi. Further work on these species may show that because these species inhabit different environments, females use different bet-hedging strategies. The results of this project suggested that even between closely related species, paternity patterns can differ dramatically. It also highlighted the need for laboratory experiments, such as double mating experiments, to be placed in the context of natural levels of paternity. This project, Kate's honours project, was one part of a larger project that focused on the Ciulfina praying mantis genus in the Behavioural Ecology Lab at Macquarie University driven primarily by Gregory I Holwell. Contributions to the literature on Ciulfina have been made most notably by Dr. Gregory I Holwell as well as James O'Hanlon, Claire Winnick, Stuart Allen and Felicity Evans.