Integrating species distribution models, genetics and morphology to infer species dynamics of New Zealand Phaulacridium grasshoppers : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Science in Zoology at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Species comparison studies have used a number of different methods that can contribute to our understanding of processes that influence the differences and similarities observed between species. This thesis describes the geographic distribution, spatial genetics, and morphology of two New Zealand Phaulacridium grasshoppers, the widespread P. marginale and the restricted P. otagoense. The primary focus was on Phaulacridium populations from the region of the southern South Island where the two species ranges overlap, for the purpose of examining the evolutionary and ecological interactions of the species.
The geographic distribution of the two species was analysed using the recorded and potential modern distribution of Phaulacridium grasshoppers. Models of environmental envelopes for each species demonstrated that the potential distribution of P. marginale covered the majority of New Zealand. In contrast, the potential distribution of P. otagoense is restricted to patches of land primarily in the southern South Island where this species is known to occur.
The phylogeographic structure of Phaulacridium species was analysed using dense population samples. Two main mtDNA COI sequence groups were found, one was shallow but geographically widespread, while the other was more diverse but geographically restricted. Within the southern South Island region both mitochondrial lineages co-occur within a single location. Demographic history analysis suggested that the widespread range of P. marginale is the result of recent population, and the restricted P. otagoense was recently represented in large populations.
The morphological variation of Phaulacridium grasshoppers was explored using traditional and geometric techniques. Two distinct morphotypes were apparent, the larger morph was geographically widespread and the smaller morph was restricted to the southern South Island. Both morphotypes co-occur in locations within the southern South Island region. Furthermore, several individuals could not be classified into a discreet morphotype, suggesting that these individuals had a mixture of morphological features, as expected of a hybrid.
Comparing the morphological and genetic data from the current study demonstrates the first reported case of introgression between P. marginale and P. otagoense. It is evident that Phaulacridium F1 hybrids exist in the wild, however it is unknown whether these F1 hybrids are fertile and also if F2 hybrids (backcrossed from parental species or F1 hybrids) are viable and fertile.