Historical ecology meets conservation and evolutionary genetics: a secondary contact zone between Carabus violaceus (Coleoptera: Carabidae) populations inhabiting ancient and recent woodlands in north-western Germany

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Only very few cases have documented that an increase in connectivity after a period of fragmentation in ecological time has had an eff ect on the distribution, genetic structure and morphology of stenotopic species. In this study we present an example of clinal variability in a woodland ground beetle as a result of changes in the connectivity of a landscape during the last two centuries. The study area hosts both the nominate form C. violaceus s. str. and the subspecies C. v. purpurascens, which is ranked as a distinct species by some authors. We studied 12 Carabus violaceus populations from a 30 km transect of ancient and recent forests in north-western Germany. We analyzed three polymorphic enzyme loci, classifi ed the elytron sculpture and measured the shape of the aedeagus tip of the specimens. C. violaceus showed secondary gradients both in allozyme markers and morphometric characters in our study area. A genetic diff erentiation of 16% between the populations is high but lies within the range of intraspecifi c variability in habitat specialists of the genus Carabus. Populations had no signifi cant defi cit of heterozygotes. We found many hybrid populations in terms of morphological properties. Th is study highlights the conservation value of ancient woodland and the consequences of landscape connectivity and defragmentation on the genetic setting of a ground beetle. Moreover, it shows that diff erences in the external shape of male genitalia do not prevent gene fl ow within the genus Carabus. Th us, the establishment of species status should not exclusively be based on this property.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1546
Issue numberSPEC. ISSUE
Pages (from-to)545-563
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 20.05.2011

    Research areas

  • Biology - Afforestation, Allozymes, Carabus violaceus purpurascens, Fragmentation, Hybrid zone, Hybridization, Morphometrics