University of Oulu

Portinha, B., Avril, A., Bernasconi, C., Helanterä, H., Monaghan, J., Seifert, B., Sousa, V. C., Kulmuni, J., & Nouhaud, P. (2022). Whole-genome analysis of multiple wood ant population pairs supports similar speciation histories, but different degrees of gene flow, across their European ranges. Molecular Ecology, 31, 3416– 3431.

Whole-genome analysis of multiple wood ant population pairs supports similar speciation histories, but different degrees of gene flow, across their European ranges

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Author: Portinha, Beatriz1,2; Avril, Amaury3; Bernasconi, Christian4;
Organizations: 1Organismal & Evolutionary Biology Research Programme, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
2cE3c, Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental changes, Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa, Portugal
3Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
4Alpine Foundation for Life Science, Blenio, Switzerland
5Ecology and Genetics research unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
6Department of Biology, University of York, York, UK
7Senckenberg Museum of Natural History Görlitz, Görlitz, Germany
8Tvärminne Zoological Station, University of Helsinki, Hanko, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-10-05


The application of demographic history modelling and inference to the study of divergence between species has become a cornerstone of speciation genomics. Speciation histories are usually reconstructed by analysing single populations from each species, assuming that the inferred population history represents the actual speciation history. However, this assumption may not be met when species diverge with gene flow, for example, when secondary contact may be confined to specific geographic regions. Here, we tested whether divergence histories inferred from heterospecific populations may vary depending on their geographic locations, using the two wood ant species Formica polyctena and F. aquilonia. We performed whole-genome resequencing of 20 individuals sampled in multiple locations across the European ranges of both species. Then, we reconstructed the histories of distinct heterospecific population pairs using a coalescent-based approach. Our analyses always supported a scenario of divergence with gene flow, suggesting that divergence started in the Pleistocene (c. 500 kya) and occurred with continuous asymmetrical gene flow from F. aquilonia to F. polyctena until a recent time, when migration became negligible (2–19 kya). However, we found support for contemporary gene flow in a sympatric pair from Finland, where the species hybridise, but no signature of recent bidirectional gene flow elsewhere. Overall, our results suggest that divergence histories reconstructed from a few individuals may be applicable at the species level. Nonetheless, the geographical context of populations chosen to represent their species should be taken into account, as it may affect estimates of migration rates between species when gene flow is spatially heterogeneous.

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Series: Molecular ecology
ISSN: 0962-1083
ISSN-E: 1365-294X
ISSN-L: 0962-1083
Volume: 31
Issue: 12
Pages: 3416 - 3431
DOI: 10.1111/mec.16481
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
1182 Biochemistry, cell and molecular biology
Funding: Our work was performed under the Global Ant Genomic Alliance and was supported by an HiLIFE fellowship and an Academy of Finland grant no. 309580 to JK. BP was funded through Societas pro Fauna et Flora Fennica and Erasmus+ grants. VCS was funded by “Fundação Ciência e Tecnologia” (Portuguese Science Foundation grants CEECINST/00032/2018/CP1523/CT0008 and CEECIND/02391/2017). We thank the Editor Paul Hohenlohe and three anonymous reviewers for their comments, which improved the quality of our manuscript. We acknowledge CSC – IT Center for Science, Finland, for computational resources. PN thanks Dominik Laetsch for bioinformatic advice and Camille Lorry for assistance with fieldwork. The authors declare no conflict of interest.
Copyright information: © 2022 The Authors. Molecular Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.