Evolutionary genetics and human assisted movement of a globally invasive pest (Russian wheat aphid : Diuraphis noxia)

Zhang, Bo (2012) Evolutionary genetics and human assisted movement of a globally invasive pest (Russian wheat aphid : Diuraphis noxia). PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.


This PhD study has examined the population genetics of the Russian wheat aphid (RWA, Diuraphis noxia), one of the world’s most invasive agricultural pests, throughout its native and introduced global range.

Firstly, this study investigated the geographic distribution of genetic diversity within and among RWA populations in western China. Analysis of mitochondrial data from 18 sites provided evidence for the long-term existence and expansion of RWAs in western China. The results refute the hypothesis that RWA is an exotic species only present in China since 1975. The estimated date of RWA expansion throughout western China coincides with the debut of wheat domestication and cultivation practices in western Asia in the Holocene. It is concluded that western China represents the limit of the far eastern native range of this species. Analysis of microsatellite data indicated high contemporary gene flow among northern populations in western China, while clear geographic isolation between northern and southern populations was identified across the Tianshan mountain range and extensive desert regions.

Secondly, this study analyzed the worldwide pathway of invasion using both microsatellite and endosymbiont genetic data. Individual RWAs were obtained from native populations in Central Asia and the Middle East and invasive populations in Africa and the Americas. Results indicated two pathways of RWA invasion from 1) Syria in the Middle East to North Africa and 2) Turkey to South Africa, Mexico and then North and South America. Very little clone diversity was identified among invasive populations suggesting that a limited founder event occurred together with predominantly asexual reproduction and rapid population expansion. The most likely explanation for the rapid spread (within two years) from South Africa to the New World is by human movement, probably as a result of the transfer of wheat breeding material. Furthermore, the mitochondrial data revealed the presence of a universal haplotype and it is proposed that this haplotype is representative of a wheat associated super-clone that has gained dominance worldwide as a result of the widespread planting of domesticated wheat.

Finally, this study examined salivary gland gene diversity to determine whether a functional basis for RWA invasiveness could be identified. Peroxidase DNA sequence data were obtained for a selection of worldwide RWA samples. Results demonstrated that most native populations were polymorphic while invasive populations were monomorphic, supporting previous conclusions relating to demographic founder effects in invasive populations. Purifying selection most likely explains the existence of a universal allele present in Middle Eastern populations, while balancing selection was evident in East Asian populations. Selection acting on the peroxidase gene may provide an allele-dependent advantage linked to the successful establishment of RWAs on wheat, and ultimately their invasion potential.

In conclusion, this study is the most comprehensive molecular genetic investigation of RWA population genetics undertaken to date and provides significant insights into the source and pathway of global invasion and the potential existence of a wheat-adapted genotype that has colonised major wheat growing countries worldwide except for Australia. This research has major biosecurity implications for Australia’s grain industry.

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ID Code: 60959
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Publication)
Supervisor: Fuller, Susan, Edwards, Owain, & Kang, Le
Keywords: Russian wheat aphid, population genetics, native range, invasive pathways, genetic isolation, demography, salivary gland genes, selection
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 26 Jun 2013 07:04
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2015 02:42

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