Evolutionary biology of Gondwanan non-biting midges (Diptera: Chironomidae)

Krosch, Matthew Neil (2010) Evolutionary biology of Gondwanan non-biting midges (Diptera: Chironomidae). PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The potential restriction to effective dispersal and gene flow caused by habitat fragmentation can apply to multiple levels of evolutionary scale; from the fragmentation of ancient supercontinents driving diversification and speciation on disjunct landmasses, to the isolation of proximate populations as a result of their inability to cross intervening unsuitable habitat. Investigating the role of habitat fragmentation in driving diversity within and among taxa can thus include inferences of phylogenetic relationships among taxa, assessments of intraspecific phylogeographic structure and analyses of gene flow among neighbouring populations. The proposed Gondwanan clade within the chironomid (non-biting midge) subfamily Orthocladiinae (Diptera: Chironomidae) represents a model system for investigating the role that population fragmentation and isolation has played at different evolutionary scales. A pilot study by Krosch et al (2009) indentified several highly divergent lineages restricted to ancient rainforest refugia and limited gene flow among proximate sites within a refuge for one member of this clade, Echinocladius martini Cranston. This study provided a framework for investigating the evolutionary history of this taxon and its relatives more thoroughly. Populations of E. martini were sampled in the Paluma bioregion of northeast Queensland to investigate patterns of fine-scale within- and among-stream dispersal and gene flow within a refuge more rigorously. Data was incorporated from Krosch et al (2009) and additional sites were sampled up- and downstream of the original sites. Analyses of genetic structure revealed strong natal site fidelity and high genetic structure among geographically proximate streams. Little evidence was found for regular headwater exchange among upstream sites, but there was distinct evidence for rare adult flight among sites on separate stream reaches. Overall, however, the distribution of shared haplotypes implied that both larval and adult dispersal was largely limited to the natal stream channel. Patterns of regional phylogeographic structure were examined in two related austral orthoclad taxa – Naonella forsythi Boothroyd from New Zealand and Ferringtonia patagonica Sæther and Andersen from southern South America – to provide a comparison with patterns revealed in their close relative E. martini. Both taxa inhabit tectonically active areas of the southern hemisphere that have also experienced several glaciation events throughout the Plio-Pleistocene that are thought to have affected population structure dramatically in many taxa. Four highly divergent lineages estimated to have diverged since the late Miocene were revealed in each taxon, mirroring patterns in E. martini; however, there was no evidence for local geographical endemism, implying substantial range expansion post-diversification. The differences in pattern evident among the three related taxa were suggested to have been influenced by variation in the responses of closed forest habitat to climatic fluctuations during interglacial periods across the three landmasses. Phylogeographic structure in E. martini was resolved at a continental scale by expanding upon the sampling design of Krosch et al (2009) to encompass populations in southeast Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Patterns of phylogeographic structure were consistent with expectations and several previously unrecognised lineages were revealed from central- and southern Australia that were geographically endemic to closed forest refugia. Estimated divergence times were congruent with the timing of Plio-Pleistocene rainforest contractions across the east coast of Australia. This suggested that dispersal and gene flow of E. martini among isolated refugia was highly restricted and that this taxon was susceptible to the impacts of habitat change. Broader phylogenetic relationships among taxa considered to be members of this Gondwanan orthoclad group were resolved in order to test expected patterns of evolutionary affinities across the austral continents. The inferred phylogeny and estimated divergence times did not accord with expected patterns based on the geological sequence of break-up of the Gondwanan supercontinent and implied instead several transoceanic dispersal events post-vicariance. Difficulties in appropriate taxonomic sampling and accurate calibration of molecular phylogenies notwithstanding, the sampling regime implemented in the current study has been the most intensive yet performed for austral members of the Orthocladiinae and unsurprisingly has revealed both novel taxa and phylogenetic relationships within and among described genera. Several novel associations between life stages are made here for both described and previously unknown taxa. Investigating evolutionary relationships within and among members of this clade of proposed Gondwanan orthoclad taxa has demonstrated that a complex interaction between historical population fragmentation and dispersal at several levels of evolutionary scale has been important in driving diversification in this group. While interruptions to migration, colonisation and gene flow driven by population fragmentation have clearly contributed to the development and maintenance of much of the diversity present in this group, long-distance dispersal has also played a role in influencing diversification of continental biotas and facilitating gene flow among disjunct populations.

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ID Code: 41749
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Baker, Andrew, Mather, Peter, & Cranston, Peter
Keywords: Australia, Chironomidae, continental drift, dispersal, Echinocladius martini, Ferringtonia patagonica, freshwater invertebrate, gene flow, genetic structure, glaciation events, Gondwana, habitat fragmentation, Lars Brundin, Naonella forsythi, New Zealand, Orthocladiinae, Patagonia, phylogenetics, phylogeography, population genetics, population isolation, rainforest contraction, refugia, tectonic uplift, vicariance
Divisions: Past > Schools > Biogeoscience
Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 20 May 2011 02:09
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 20:02

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