Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2018

Degree Name

MS (Master of Science)

Degree In


First Advisor

Forbes, Andrew

First Committee Member

Logsdon, John

Second Committee Member

Neiman, Maurine


Studying how new insect species originate can help us better understand the evolutionary processes that lead to the rich insect biodiversity found in the tropics. New insect species arise via the evolution of reproductive isolation, a result of the accumulation of reproductive isolating barriers. Reproductive isolating barriers can arise in the context of geographical isolation and/or can be influenced by differences in ecology. Complex evolutionary mechanisms may underlie the origins of the more than 40 species of neotropical fruit flies in the genus Blepharoneura (Diptera: Tephritidae). The immature stages of these flies are specialist feeders on plants in the Cucurbitaceae (cucurbit) family in Central and South America. Previous research focusing on six geographically widespread Blepharoneura species used 18 microsatellite loci to identify patterns of geographical and ecological divergence. While conclusions from microsatellite data are valid, these markers provide only a limited signal of genetic structure. Fine-scale, genome-wide data can reveal patterns of genetic differentiation that may help us discover and date historical and recent lineage divergence. Here I use double-digest restriction-associated DNA (ddRAD) sequencing to explore the hypothesis that geographic and ecologic barriers are restricting gene flow in one species of Blepharoneura, B. sp10. First, I use two methods to detect population structure within B. sp10 individuals. I find evidence for three distinct genetic groups characterized by geography and one genetic group defined by a difference in host plant use. Then I investigate these relationships using Mantel tests and pairwise spatial-genetic plots, which reveal distinct biogeographical genetic patterns. Finally, I infer the evolutionary history of B. sp10 using approximate Bayesian computation and find that the timing of divergence between flies collected from the Amazon Basin and those collected from the Guiana Shield coincides with the late Pleistocene, between 24,412 and 83,000 years ago. Connecting these results to historical climate data from the Late Pleistocene may help explain evolutionary processes that contributed to the patterns of genetic diversity that we see in Blepharoneura. This research provides a framework for investigating the biogeographic and evolutionary history of the more than 50 species in the Blephaorneura genus, a step towards understanding the complexity of insect diversity in the tropics.


Blepharoneura, population genetics


xii, 61 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 58-61).


Copyright © 2018 Heather Widmayer

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Biology Commons