Phylogeographic structure in penguin ticks across an ocean basin indicates allopatric divergence and rare trans-oceanic dispersal

Katherine L. Moon, Sam C. Banks, Ceridwen I. Fraser

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Abstract

The association of ticks (Acarina) and seabirds provides an intriguing system for assessing the influence of long-distance dispersal on the evolution of parasitic species. Recent research has focused on host-parasite evolutionary relationships and dispersal capacity of ticks parasitising flighted seabirds. Evolutionary research on the ticks of non-flighted seabirds is, in contrast, scarce. We conducted the first phylogeographic investigation of a hard tick species (Ixodes eudyptidis) that parasitises the Little Blue Penguin (Eudyptula minor). Using one nuclear (28S) and two mitochondrial (COI and 16S) markers, we assessed genetic diversity among several populations in Australia and a single population on the South Island of New Zealand. Our results reveal two deeply divergent lineages, possibly representing different species: one comprising all New Zealand samples and some from Australia, and the other representing all other samples from Australian sites. No significant population differentiation was observed among any Australian sites from within each major clade, even those separated by hundreds of kilometres of coastline. In contrast, the New Zealand population was significantly different to all samples from Australia. Our phylogenetic results suggest that the New Zealand and Australian populations are effectively isolated from each other; although rare long-distance dispersal events must occur, these are insufficient to maintain trans-Tasman gene flow. Despite the evidence for limited dispersal of penguin ticks between Australia and New Zealand, we found no evidence to suggest that ticks are unable to disperse shorter distances at sea with their hosts, with no pattern of population differentiation found among Australian sites. Our results suggest that terrestrial seabird parasites may be quite capable of short-distance movements, but only sporadic longer-distance (trans-oceanic) dispersal.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0128514
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalPLoS One
Volume10
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes

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