Deep sampling of Hawaiian Caenorhabditis elegans reveals high genetic diversity and admixture with global populations

Elife. 2019 Dec 3:8:e50465. doi: 10.7554/eLife.50465.


Hawaiian isolates of the nematode species Caenorhabditis elegans have long been known to harbor genetic diversity greater than the rest of the worldwide population, but this observation was supported by only a small number of wild strains. To better characterize the niche and genetic diversity of Hawaiian C. elegans and other Caenorhabditis species, we sampled different substrates and niches across the Hawaiian islands. We identified hundreds of new Caenorhabditis strains from known species and a new species, Caenorhabditis oiwi. Hawaiian C. elegans are found in cooler climates at high elevations but are not associated with any specific substrate, as compared to other Caenorhabditis species. Surprisingly, admixture analysis revealed evidence of shared ancestry between some Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian C. elegans strains. We suggest that the deep diversity we observed in Hawaii might represent patterns of ancestral genetic diversity in the C. elegans species before human influence.

Keywords: Caenorhabditis elegans; Caenorhabditis oiwi; Hawaii; admixture; evolutionary biology; genetic diversity; genetics; genomics; niche.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Migration
  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / anatomy & histology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / classification*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / isolation & purification*
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Geographic Mapping
  • Haplotypes
  • Hawaii
  • Male
  • Phylogeny*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Species Specificity