Over the last 50 years populations of certain farmland birds have undergone severe declines over the same timescale that agriculture has intensified. The larvae of grassland sawflies (Hymenoptera, Symphyta) are a key component of the fledgling diet and it is thought that agri-intensification has reduced the numbers of these insects to such an extent that the populations of bird species dependent on them are limited. Sawfly populations may be more than usually susceptible to disturbance because firstly, their adult stages are poor dispersers and secondly, some species possess Complementary Sex Determination (CSD), a mechanism which can produce sterile males under inbreeding conditions. This study has produced a sawfly transcriptomic library through the use of 454 pyrosequencing, the first genetic resource for any farmland sawfly. From this library, a set of 13 polymorphic microsatellite markers were isolated for use in the common farmland sawfly Dolerus aeneus. Using these markers, three Scottish populations of D. aeneus, a species common to all six UK sites sampled in this study, exhibited similar levels of genetic diversity and low levels of genetic differentiation. However, evidence of inbreeding was detected in each of the three populations. In addition, potential diploid males were detected in D. aeneus using microsatellite markers, a primary indication that CSD may be operating in this species. The population genetic analysis in the current study suggests that fragmentation of suitable sawfly habitat as a result of agricultural intensification has not yet acted to isolate D. aeneus populations, although some genetic effects (inbreeding and low diversity compared with non-threatened hymenopterans) are apparent. In addition, diploid males have been detected which may have compromised fertility. This study will be of interest to research groups working on the genetics of the Hymenoptera and on the conservation and management of sawflies and the bird species dependent on them.
|Date of Award||2011|
|Sponsors||The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust & Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council|
|Supervisor||Stephen Hubbard (Supervisor)|
- Population genetics
- Agricultural intensification