Long-term population persistence of flightless weevils (Eurhoptus pyriformis) across old- and second-growth forests patches in southern Appalachia


Abstract Background Southern Appalachian forests are dominated by second-growth vegetation following decades of intensive forestry and agricultural use, although some old-growth patches remain. While it’s been shown that second-growth areas may exhibit comparable species richness to old-growth in the area, the extent to which populations of arthropods in second-growth areas have persisted vs. recolonized from other areas remains unexamined. The implications for conservation of both classes of forest are significant. Here we analyze population diversity and relatedness across five old-growth and five second-growth populations of flightless, leaf litter-inhabiting beetles in the genus Eurhoptus (Coleoptera: Curculionidae: Cryptorhynchinae). Our main goal is asking whether second-growth areas show diminished diversity and/or signals of recolonization from old-growth sources. Results Population genetic and phylogenetic analyses do not reveal any consistent differences in diversity between the old-growth and second-growth populations examined. Some second-growth populations retain substantial genetic diversity, while some old-growth populations appear relatively depauperate. There is no phylogenetic indication that second-growth populations have recolonized from old-growth source populations. Conclusions Most populations contain substantial and unique genetic diversity indicating long-term persistence in the majority of sites. The results support substantial resilience in second-growth populations, though the geographic scale of sampling may have hindered detection of recolonization patterns. Broad scale phylogeographic patterns reveal a deep break across the French Broad River basin, as has been reported in several other taxa of limited dispersal abilities. In Eurhoptus this break dates to ~ 2–6 Ma ago, on the older end of the range of previously estimated dates.

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