Ecological speciation by temporal isolation in a population of the stonefly Leuctra hippopus (Plecoptera, Leuctridae)

Ecol Evol. 2017 Feb 10;7(5):1635-1649. doi: 10.1002/ece3.2638. eCollection 2017 Mar.


Stream dwelling invertebrates are ideal candidates for the study of ecological speciation as they are often adapted to particular environmental conditions within a stream and inhabit only certain reaches of a drainage basin, separated by unsuitable habitat. We studied an atypical population of the stonefly Leuctra hippopus at a site in central Norway, the Isterfoss rapids, in relation to three nearby and two remote conspecific populations. Adults of this population emerge about a month earlier than those of nearby populations, live on large boulders emerging from the rapids, and are short-lived. This population also has distinct morphological features and was studied earlier during the period 1975-1990. We reassessed morphological distinctness with new measurements and added several analyses of genetic distinctness based on mitochondrial and nuclear sequence markers, as well as AFLP fingerprinting and SNPs mined from RAD sequences. The Isterfoss population is shown to be most closely related to its geographical neighbors, yet clearly morphologically and genetically distinct and homogeneous. We conclude that this population is in the process of sympatric speciation, with temporal isolation being the most important direct barrier to gene flow. The shift in reproductive season results from the particular temperature and water level regime in the Isterfoss rapids. The distinct adult body shape and loss of flight are hypothesized to be an adaptation to the unusual habitat. Ecological diversification on small spatial and temporal scales is one of the likely causes of the high diversity of aquatic insects.

Keywords: AFLP; RAD‐based SNPs; cytochrome c oxidase subunit I; freshwater insects; genetic differentiation; incipient speciation.

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.231b9