BackgroundLevels of genetic diversity can strongly influence the dynamics and evolutionary changes of natural populations. Survival and disease resistance have been linked to levels of genetic diversity in eusocial insects, yet these relationships remain untested in gregarious insects where disease transmission can be high and selection for resistance is likely to be strong.Methodology/Principal FindingsHere we use 8 microsatellite loci to examine genetic variation in 12 families of western tent caterpillars, Malacosoma californicum pluviale from four different island populations to determine the relationship of genetic variability to survival and disease resistance. In addition these genetic markers were used to elucidate the population structure of western tent caterpillars. Multiple paternity was revealed by microsatellite markers, with the number of sires estimated to range from one to three per family (mean ± SE = 1.92±0.23). Observed heterozygosity (HO) of families was not associated to the resistance of families to a nucleopolyhedrovirus (NPV) (r = 0.161, F1,12 = 0.271, P = 0.614), a major cause of mortality in high-density populations, but was positively associated with larval survival (r = 0.635, F1,10 = 5.412, P = 0.048). Genetic differentiation among the families was high (FST = 0.269, P<0.0001), and families from the same island were as differentiated as were families from other islands.Conclusion/SignificanceWe have been able to describe and characterize 8 microsatellite loci, which demonstrate patterns of variation within and between families of western tent caterpillars. We have discovered an association between larval survival and family-level heterozygosity that may be relevant to the population dynamics of this cyclic forest lepidopteran, and this will be the topic of future work.
Franklin MT, Ritland CE, Myers JH, Cory JS (2012) Multiple Mating and Family Structure of the Western Tent Caterpillar, Malacosoma californicum pluviale: Impact on Disease Resistance. PLoS ONE 7(5): e37472. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037472
Multiple Mating and Family Structure of the Western Tent Caterpillar, Malacosoma californicum pluviale: Impact on Disease Resistance
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