Abstracts (first author)
Experimental and genomic approaches in the study of the balanced colour-polymorphism of the meadow spittlebug (Philaenus spumarius)
Philaenus spumarius (Insecta, Hemiptera, Aphrophoridae) has for long been a subject of interest of evolutionary biologists due to its heritable colour polymorphism that shows evidence of balancing selection and of clinal variation in the colour mophs frequencies. We are studying the adaptive significance of this polymorphism, particularly to understand if the melanic morphs (e.g. “marginellus” morph) have any advantage/disadvantage in terms of survival and reproductive success, efficiency of egg maturation and resistance to desiccation compared to non-melanic morphs (“typicus” and “trilineatus”). Results so far indicate a higher survival, higher number of eggs clutches and higher number of eggs laid by the “trilineatus” females than “typicus” or “marginellus” females. We are also taking a genomic approach for a) the identification of genetic basis of the colour polymorphism and b) for detecting signatures of balancing and directional selection in the genome of P. spumarius. For this purpose we are applying RAD sequencing in a) a set of samples from the three different morphs referred above, using a high frequency cutter enzyme (PstI) and in b) another set of samples from 8 populations across the distribution range of the species representing the main mitochondrial haplogroups, using a lower frequency cutter enzyme (SbfI). We are also assembling a draft of the genome that will aid in the identification of homologous regions to available references, although the very large genome size of this insect constitutes an extra challenge.