African Zoology

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Spatial genetic pattern in an economically beneficial insect, the cyclical African wild silk moth (Gonometa postica)

Timothy C. Bray


The African wild silk moth (Gonometa postica) exhibits large inter-annual population size fluctuations in the Kalahari region of southern Africa. Spent cocoons from this species are currently being utilized in a local silk industry. An understanding of the recolonization dynamics of a particular harvested site, and of the population genetic effects of such dispersal, are crucial for designing a scientifically-based harvesting strategy. I link morphological estimates of flying ability to microsatellite genotyping in the determination of dispersal ability of this species. Morphological results suggest that the moth is a poor disperser with high wing loadings and males are better fliers than females. There is a significant effect of isolation-bydistance. Spatial population genetic analyses of microsatellite data further indicate lower and upper bounds on dispersal of 90 m and 50 km. The combined evidence suggests male-biased dispersal over several dozen kilometers with females that do not disperse over large distances. I discuss the potential influences of large population size fluctuations on patterns of genetic diversity and the implications for the inference of dispersal in my study species.

Key words: isolation by distance, Lepidoptera, microsatellites, population cycles, spatial
AJOL African Journals Online