Taxonomy and genetics of the parthenogenetic mayfly Centroptilum triangulifer and its sexual sister Centroptilum alamance (Ephemeroptera:Baetidae)

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Funk, D.H., J.K. Jackson, and B.W. Sweeney. 2006. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 25(2):417–429.



Allozymes were used to examine population genetic structure and species boundaries in the clonal, obligately parthenogenetic Centroptilum triangulifer and its sexual sister species Centroptilum alamance from 3 sites in Pennsylvania and 1 site in North Carolina, USA. Genotype frequencies in field populations of C. triangulifer showed numerous departures from Hardy-Weinberg expectations (mostly heterozygote excesses) and significant linkage disequilibrium at most testable locus combinations, as expected for a clonal parthenogen. A total of 51 distinct clones of C. triangulifer was identified, some of which were found at multiple sites (separated by .700 km in one case). Each stream contained from 7 to 25 clones and clonal frequencies at a given site varied greatly over time. Allelic patterns in laboratory hybrids suggest that parthenogenesis in C. triangulifer is diploid and automictic, and that crossing over is suppressed. In contrast, C. alamance populations had only a few Hardy-Weinberg departures (all heterzygote deficiences) and little or no linkage disequilibrium. No published work provides characters to distinguish the 2 species, but our data support retention of specific status for C. triangulifer and C. alamance because: 1) consistent, fixed allelic differences were found over a broad geographic area (.700 km) with no evidence of introgression despite co-occurrence (sympatry) in the same stream, 2) laboratory hybridization experiments demonstrated the existence of postzygotic barriers to gene flow between the species, and 3) measures of both interspecific and intraspecific genetic similarity were comparable to those found between other mayfly species. Phylogenetic analysis of the genetic data suggests speciation preceded the transition to obligate parthenogenetic reproduction in C. triangulifer. Morphological examination of genetically identified specimens enabled us to describe subtle but consistent differences that can be used to distinguish the species. Thus, what initially appeared to be single populations with skewed sex ratios (7, 11, and 24% male) at 3 of our study sites was, in fact, 2 populations at each site—1 exclusively female (C. triangulifer) and the other a normal, sexual (1:1 sex ratio) population (C. alamance). A similar approach, combining detailed genetic and breeding experiments with close morphological study, could help resolve taxonomic problems in some of the numerous other bisexual/parthenogenetic mayfly taxa.


NSF Award No. DEB-0424681 Title: LTREB: Stream ecosystem structure and function within a maturing deciduous forest. Duration: August 2004–July 2009.