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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Gene flow relates to evolutionary divergence among populations at the range margin

Kanuch, Peter; Kiehl, Berrit; Cassel-Lundhagen, Anna; Laugen, Ane T.; Low, Matthew; Berggren, Asa


Background: Morphological differentiation between populations resulting from local adaptations to environmental conditions is likely to be more pronounced in populations with increasing genetic isolation. In a previous study a positive clinal variation in body size was observed in isolated Roesel's bush-cricket, Metrioptera roeselii, populations, but were absent from populations within a continuous distribution at the same latitudinal range. This observational study inferred that there was a phenotypic effect of gene flow on climate-induced selection in this species.Methods: To disentangle genetic versus environmental drivers of population differences in morphology, we measured the size of four different body traits in wild-caught individuals from the two most distinct latitudinally-matched pairs of populations occurring at about 60 degrees N latitude in northern Europe, characterised by either restricted or continuous gene flow, and corresponding individuals raised under laboratory conditions.Results: Individuals that originated from the genetically isolated populations were always bigger (femur, pronotum and genital appendages) when compared to individuals from latitudinally-matched areas characterised by continuous gene flow between populations. The magnitude of this effect was similar for wild-caught and laboratory-reared individuals. We found that previously observed size cline variation in both male and female crickets was likely to be the result of local genetic adaptation rather than phenotypic plasticity.Conclusions: This strongly suggests that restricted gene flow is of major importance for frequencies of alleles that participate in climate-induced selection acting to favour larger phenotypes in isolated populations towards colder latitudes.


Adaptive divergence; Body size; Climate; Genetic isolation; Orthoptera

Published in

2020, Volume: 8, article number: e10036
Publisher: PEERJ INC