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  • Kariola, Tarja (Helsingin yliopisto, 2006)
    Erwinia carotovora subsp. carotovora is a bacterial phytopathogen that causes soft rot in various agronomically important crop plants. A genetically specified resistance to E. carotovora has not been defined, and plant resistance to this pathogen is established through nonspecific activation of basal defense responses. This, together with the broad host range, makes this pathogen a good model for studying the activation of plant defenses. Production and secretion of plant cell wall-degrading enzymes (PCWDE) are central to the virulence of E. carotovora. It also possesses the type III secretion system (TTSS) utilized by many Gram-negative bacteria to secrete virulence- promoting effector proteins to plant cells. This study elucidated the role of E. carotovora HrpN (HrpNEcc), an effector protein secreted through TTSS, and the contribution of this protein in the virulence of E. carotovora. Treatment of plants with HrpNEcc was demonstrated to induce a hypersensitive response (HR) as well as resistance to E. carotovora. Resistance induced by HrpNEcc required both salicylic acid (SA)- and jasmonate/ethylene (JA/ET)-dependent defense signaling in Arabidopsis. Simultaneous treatment of Arabidopsis with HrpNEcc and PCWDE polygalacturonase PehA elicited accelerated and enhanced induction of defense genes but also increased production of superoxide and lesion formation. This demonstrates mutual amplification of defense signaling by these two virulence factors of E. carotovora. Identification of genes that are rapidly induced in response to a pathogen can provide novel information about the early events occurring in the plant defense response. CHLOROPHYLLASE 1 (AtCLH1) and EARLY RESPONSIVE TO DEHYDRATION 15 (ERD15) are both rapidly triggered by E. carotovora in Arabidopsis. Characterization of AtCLH1 encoding chlorophyll-degrading enzyme chlorophyllase indicated that it might have a role in chlorophyll degradation during plant tissue damage. Silencing of this gene resulted in increased accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in response to pathogen infection in a light-dependent manner. This led to enhanced SA-dependent defenses and resistance to E. carotovora. Moreover, crosstalk between different defense signaling pathways was observed; JA-dependent defenses and resistance to fungal pathogen Alternaria brassicicola were impaired, indicating antagonism between SA- and JA-dependent signaling. Characterization of ERD15 suggested that it is a novel, negative regulator of abscisic acid (ABA) signaling in Arabidopsis. Overexpression of ERD15 resulted in insensitivity to ABA and reduced tolerance of the plants to dehydration stress. However, simultaneously, the resistance of the plants to E. carotovora was enhanced. Silencing of ERD15 improved freezing and drought tolerance of transgenic plants. This, together with the reducing effect of ABA on seed germination, indicated hypersensitivity to this phytohormone. ERD15 was hypothesized to act as a capacitor that controls the appropriate activation of ABA responses in Arabidopsis.
  • Povelainen, Mira (Helsingin yliopisto, 2008)
    The ultimate goal of this study has been to construct metabolically engineered microbial strains capable of fermenting glucose into pentitols D-arabitol and, especially, xylitol. The path that was chosen to achieve this goal required discovery, isolation and sequencing of at least two pentitol phosphate dehydrogenases of different specificity, followed by cloning and expression of their genes and characterization of recombinant arabitol and xylitol phosphate dehydrogenases. An enzyme of a previously unknown specificity, D-arabitol phosphate dehydrogenase (APDH), was discovered in Enterococcus avium. The enzyme was purified to homogenity from E. avium strain ATCC 33665. SDS/PAGE revealed that the enzyme has a molecular mass of 41 ± 2 kDa, whereas a molecular mass of 160 ± 5 kDa was observed under non-denaturing conditions implying that the APDH may exist as a tetramer with identical subunits. Purified APDH was found to have narrow substrate specificity, converting only D-arabitol 1-phosphate and D-arabitol 5-phosphate into D-xylulose 5-phosphate and D-ribulose 5-phosphate, respectively, in the oxidative reaction. Both NAD+ and NADP+ were accepted as co-factors. Based on the partial protein sequences, the gene encoding APDH was cloned. Homology comparisons place APDH within the medium chain dehydrogenase family. Unlike most members of this family, APDH requires Mn2+ but no Zn2+ for enzymatic activity. The DNA sequence surrounding the gene suggests that it belongs to an operon that also contains several components of phosphotransferase system (PTS). The apparent role of the enzyme is to participate in arabitol catabolism via the arabitol phosphate route similar to the ribitol and xylitol catabolic routes described previously. Xylitol phosphate dehydrogenase (XPDH) was isolated from Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain ATCC 15820. The enzyme was partially sequenced. Amino acid sequences were used to isolate the gene encoding the enzyme. The homology comparisons of the deduced amino acid sequence of L. rhamnosus XPDH revealed several similar enzymes in genomes of various species of Gram-positive bacteria. Two enzymes of Clostridium difficile and an enzyme of Bacillus halodurans were cloned and their substrate specificities together with the substrate specificity of L. rhamnosus XPDH were compared. It was found that one of the XPDH enzymes of C. difficile and the XPDH of L. rhamnosus had the highest selectivity towards D-xylulose 5-phosphate. A known transketolase-deficient and D-ribose-producing mutant of Bacillus subtilis (ATCC 31094) was further modified by disrupting its rpi (D-ribose phosphate isomerase) gene to create D-ribulose- and D-xylulose-producing strain. Expression of APDH of E. avium and XPDH of L. rhamnosus and C. difficile in D-ribulose- and D-xylulose-producing strain of B. subtilis resulted in strains capable of converting D-glucose into D-arabitol and xylitol, respectively. The D-arabitol yield on D-glucose was 38 % (w/w). Xylitol production was accompanied by co-production of ribitol limiting xylitol yield to 23 %.
  • Marjamaa, Kaisa (Helsingin yliopisto, 2007)
    Lignin is a complex plant polymer synthesized through co-operation of multiple intracellular and extracellular enzymes. It is deposited to plant cell walls in cells where additional strength or stiffness are needed, such as in tracheary elements (TEs) in xylem, supporting sclerenchymal tissues and at the sites of wounding. Class III peroxidases (POXs) are secreted plant oxidoreductases with implications in many physiological processes such as the polymerization of lignin and suberin and auxin catabolism. POXs are able to oxidize various substrates in the presence of hydrogen peroxide, including lignin monomers, monolignols, thus enabling the monolignol polymerization to lignin by radical coupling. Trees produce large amounts of lignin in secondary xylem of stems, branches and roots. In this study, POXs of gymnosperm and angiosperm trees were studied in order to find POXs which are able to participate in lignin polymerization in developing secondary xylem i.e. are located at the site of lignin synthesis in tree stems and have the ability to oxidize monolignol substrates. Both in the gymnosperm species, Norway spruce and Scots pine, and in the angiosperm species silver birch the monolignol oxidizing POX activities originating from multiple POX isoforms were present in lignifying secondary xylem in stems during the period of annual growth. Most of the partially purified POXs from Norway spruce and silver birch xylem had highest oxidation rate with coniferyl alcohol, the main monomer in guaiacyl-lignin in conifers. The only exception was the most anionic POX fraction from silver birch, which clearly preferred sinapyl alcohol, the lignin monomer needed in the synthesis of syringyl-guaiacyl lignin in angiosperm trees. Three full-length pox cDNAs px1, px2 and px3 were cloned from the developing xylem of Norway spruce. It was shown that px1 and px2 are expressed in developing tracheids in spruce seedlings, whereas px3 transcripts were not detected suggesting low transcription level in young trees. The amino acid sequences of PX1, PX2 and PX3 were less than 60% identical to each other but showed up to 84% identity to other known POXs. They all begin with predicted N-terminal secretion signal (SS) peptides. PX2 and PX3 contained additional putative vacuolar localization determinants (VSDs) at C-terminus. Transient expression of EGFP-fusions of the SS- and VSD-peptides in tobacco protoplasts showed SS-peptides directed EGFP to secretion in tobacco cells, whereas only the PX2 C-terminal peptide seems to be a functional VSD. According to heterologous expression of px1 in Catharanthus roseus hairy roots, PX1 is a guaicol-oxidizing POX with isoelectric point (pI) approximately 10, similar to monolignol oxidizing POXs in protein extracts from Norway spruce lignifying xylem. Hence, PX1 has characteristics for participation to monolignol dehydrogenation in lignin synthesis, whereas the other two spruce POXs seem to have some other functions. Interesting topics in future include functional characterization of syringyl compound oxidizing POXs and components of POX activity regulation in trees.
  • Kluen, Edward (Helsingin yliopisto, 2012)
    In order to adapt their behaviour optimally and to be able to increase fitness, individuals are assumed to respond flexibly to environmental variation they encounter. Contrasting with this classical behavioural ecological point of view is the concept of animal personality. The latter focuses on understanding the mechanisms underlying and evolutionary processes maintaining variation in the expression of a behavioural trait over time and across situations or contexts. Originating in human psychology, personality studies have recently been integrated into the fields of ecology and evolution. Studies on consistent variation in behaviour within and between individuals (personality) have resulted in numerous insights and these are still expanding. In the first chapter of this thesis I research underlying factors and possible consequences of the response (delayed hatching) of blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) to encountered climatic variation. I find that hatching delay (i.e. number of days hatching was delayed) is associated with early laying dates and low mean temperatures during the egg-laying phase. In addition hatching delay is negatively associated with clutch hatchability and female body condition. Using a reciprocal cross-fostering protocol on a large number of broods, I find that hatching delay may also negatively affect developmental parameters in offspring, in particular body mass of nestlings at fledging. Results from this study demonstrate that environmental conditions during egg laying can have effects lasting throughout the breeding and nestling period. In chapters II to V I investigate variation in behaviour among individuals. The focus in these four chapters is on personality traits in blue tits. I first design an experimental setup, using a bird cage, in which several behavioural traits can be measured in a quick and non-invasive manner and which can be applied in both winter and breeding season. In addition several behavioural traits are measured during handling of both adult and nestling birds. All these behavioural measures are then used to test several aspects of behaviour in a personality context in the blue tit. The behavioural traits derived from the bird cage are repeatable over time and qualify as personality traits in this species. In addition I find an association between one of the measured personality traits in the cage and a single nucleotide polymorphism in the 3rd exon of the dopamine receptor (D4) gene (DRD4), similar to what has been found in recent research on great tits (Parus major). This suggests that there is a genetic basis underlying this personality trait and that this genomic region might be involved in animal personality. I apply a reaction norm framework to assess context specificity of the traits measured in the bird cage, using measures from (partly) the same birds measured in two distinct contexts (winter and breeding season). I show that one needs to carefully consider the context under which individuals are assayed and that a recorded behaviour may or may not be repeatable in another context. Furthermore I use data from a cross-foster protocol on nestling blue tits in combination with quantitative genetics. I assess the heritability of three behavioural traits and show that these traits form a behavioural syndrome at both the phenotypic and genetic level. In addition, from the applied animal model analysis I can conclude that environmental factors, encountered by nestlings during the rearing period, may have a considerable impact on a nestling s personality. Thus, taken into account findings from the first chapter in this thesis, the development of both physical and behavioural traits in an individual seems to find its origin already in the earliest phases of life. Finally I test whether three personality traits and two immunological traits in the blue tit covary and form a syndrome which includes behavioural and immunological traits. I find that there are intrinsic correlations between behavioural and immunological traits; however there is no strong evidence for the existence of a syndrome of these traits in the blue tit.
  • Heikinheimo, Liisa (Helsingin yliopisto, 2002)
  • Laurinavicius, Simonas (Helsingin yliopisto, 2008)
    In this study we used electro-spray ionization mass-spectrometry to determine phospholipid class and molecular species compositions in bacteriophages PM2, PRD1, Bam35 and phi6 as well as their hosts. To obtain compositional data of the individual leaflets, phospholipid transbilayer distribution in the viral membranes was studied. We found that 1) the membranes of all studied bacteriophage are enriched in PG as compared to the host membranes, 2) molecular species compositions in the phage and host membranes are similar, and 3) phospholipids in the viral membranes are distributed asymmetrically with phosphatidylglycerol enriched in the outer leaflet and phosphatidylethanolamine in the inner one (except Bam35). Alternative models for selective incorporation of phospholipids to phages and for the origins of the asymmetric phospholipid transbilayer distribution are discussed. Notably, the present data are also useful when constructing high resolution structural models of bacteriophages, since diffraction methods cannot provide a detailed structure of the membrane due to high motility of the lipids and lack of symmetric organization of membrane proteins.
  • Jansen, Gunther (Helsingin yliopisto, 2009)
    Understanding the overwhelming diversity of life calls for complex organisational schemes. The field of systematics may thus be seen as the cornerstone of evolutionary biology. In the last few decades, systematics has been rejuvenated through the introduction of molecular methods such as DNA barcoding and multi-gene phylogenetic approaches. These methods may shed new light on established taxonomic ideas and problems. For example, the classification of ants has aroused much debate due to reinterpretation of morphological characters or contradictions between molecular data and morphology. Only in the last few years a consensus was reached regarding the phylogeny of ant subfamilies. However, the situation remains deplorable for lower taxonomic ranks such as subfamilies, tribes and genera. This thesis describes the systematics and evolution of the Holarctic ant genus Myrmica and the tribe to which it belongs, Myrmicini. Using barcoding, molecular-phylogenetic data and divergence time estimations, it addresses questions regarding the taxonomy, morphology and biogeography of this group. Furthermore, the interrelationships between socially parasitic Myrmica species and their hosts (other species in the genus) were inferred. The phylogeny suggests that social parasitism evolved several times in Myrmica. Finally, this thesis investigated whether coevolution shaped the phylogeny of socially parasitic Maculinea butterflies that live inside Myrmica colonies. No evidence was found for coevolution.
  • Vahtera, Varpu (Helsingin yliopisto, 2008)
    Throughout the history of Linnean taxonomy, species have been described with varying degrees of justification. Many descriptions have been based on only a few ambiguous morphological characters. Moreover, species have been considered natural, well-defined units whereas higher taxa have been treated as disparate, non-existent creations. In the present thesis a few such cases were studied in detail. Often the species-level descriptions were based on only a few specimens and the variation previously thought to be interspecific was found to be intraspecific. In some cases morphological characters were sufficient to resolve the evolutionary relationships between the taxa, but generally more resolution was gained by the addition of molecular evidence. However, both morphological and molecular data were found to be deceptive in some cases. The DNA sequences of morphologically similar specimens were found to differ distinctly in some cases, whereas in other closely related species the morphology of specimens with identical DNA sequences differed substantially. This study counsels caution when evolutionary relationships are being studied utilizing only one source of evidence or a very limited number of characters (e.g. barcoding). Moreover, it emphasizes the importance of high quality data as well as the utilization of proper methods when making scientific inferences. Properly conducted analyses produce robust results that can be utilized in numerous interesting ways. The present thesis considered two such extensions of systematics. A novel hypothesis on the origin of bioluminescence in Elateriformia beetles is presented, tying it to the development of the clicking mechanism in the ancestors of these animals. An entirely different type of extension of systematics is the proposed high value of the white sand forests in maintaining the diversity of beetles in the Peruvian Amazon. White sand forests are under growing pressure from human activities that lead to deforestation. They were found to harbor an extremely diverse beetle fauna and many taxa were specialists living only in this unique habitat. In comparison to the predominant clay soil forests, considerably more elateroid beetles belonging to all studied taxonomic levels (species, genus, tribus, and subfamily) were collected in white sand forests. This evolutionary diversity is hypothesized to be due to a combination of factors: (1) the forest structure, which favors the fungus-plant interactions important for the elateroid beetles, (2) the old age of the forest type favoring survival of many evolutionary lineages and (3) the widespread distribution and fragmentation of the forests in the Miocene, favoring speciation.
  • Högnabba, Filip (Helsingin yliopisto, 2007)
    Phylogenetic studies of cyanobacterial lichens Lichens are symbiotic assemblages between fungi (mycobiont) and green algae (phycobiont) or/and cyanobacteria (cyanobiont). Fossil records show that lichen-like symbioses occurred already 600 million years ago. Lichen symbiosis has since then become an important life strategy for the Fungi, particularly for species in the phylum Ascomycota as approximately 98% of the lichenized fungal species are ascomycetes. The taxonomy of lichen associations is based on the mycobiont. We reconstructed, using DNA sequence data, hypotheses of phylogenetic relationships of lichen-forming fungi that include species associated with cyanobacteria. These hypotheses of phylogeny should form the basis for the taxonomy. They also allowed studies of the origin and the evolution of specific symbioses. Genetic diversity and phylogenetic relationships of symbiotic cyanobionts were also studied in order to examine selectivity of cyanobionts and mycobionts as well as possible co-evolution between partners involved in lichen associations. The suggested circumscription of the family Stereocaulaceae to include Stereocaulon and Lepraria is supported. The recently described crustose Stereocaulon species seem to be correctly placed in the genus, although Stereocaulon traditionally included only fruticose species. The monospecific crustose genus Muhria is also shown to be best placed in Stereocaulon. Family Lobariaceae as currently delimited is monophyletic. Within Lobariaceae genus Sticta including Dendriscocaulon dendroides form a monophyletic group while the genera Lobaria and Pseudocyphellaria are non-monophyletic. A new classification of Lobariaceae is obviously needed. Further studies are however required before a final proposal for a new classification can be made. Our results show that the cyanobacterial symbiotic state has been gained repeatedly in the Ascomycota while losses of symbiotic cyanobacteria appear to be rare. The symbiosis with green algae is confirmed to have been gained repeatedly in Ascomycota but also repeatedly lost. Cyanobacterial symbioses therefore seem to be more stable than green algal associations. Cyanobacteria are perhaps more beneficial for the lichen fungi and therefore maintained. The results indicate a dynamic association of the lichen symbiosis. This evolutionary instability will perhaps be important for the lichen fungi as the utilization of options will perhaps enable lichens to colonize new substrates and survive environmental changes. Some cyanobacterial lichen genera seem to be highly selective towards the cyanobiont while others form symbioses with a broad spectrum of cyanobacteria. No evidence of co-evolution between fungi and cyanobacteria in cyanolichens could be demonstrated.
  • Laurenne, Nina (Helsingin yliopisto, 2008)
    The parasitic wasps are one of the largest insect groups and their life histories are remarkably variable. Common to all parasitic wasps is that they kill their hosts, which are usually beetles, butterflies and sometimes spiders. Hosts are often at a larval or pupal stage and live in concealed conditions, such as in plant tissue. Parasitic wasps have two main ways of finding their host. 1) They can detect chemical compounds emitted by damaged plant material or released by larvae living in plant tissue, and 2) detect the larvae by sound vibrations. Even though pupae are immobile and silent, and therefore do not cause vibration, parasitoids have, however, adapted to find passive developmental stages by producing vibration themselves by knocking the substrate with their antennae, and then detecting the echoes with their legs. This echolocation allows a parasitoid to locate its potential hosts that are deeply buried in wood. This study focuses on the relationships of the subfamily Cryptinae (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae) and related taxa, and the evolution of host location mechanism. There are no earlier studies of the phylogeny of the Cryptinae, and the position of related taxa are unclear. According to the earlier classification, which is entirely intuitional, the Cryptinae is divided into three tribes: Cryptini, Hemigasterini and Phygadeuontini. Further, these tribes are subdiveded into numerous subtribes. This work, based on molecular characters, shows that the cryptine tribes Cryptini, Phygadeuon¬tini and Hemigasterini come out largely as monophyletic groups, thus agreeing with the earlier classification. The earlier subtribal classification had no support. In addition, it is shown that modified antennal structures are associated with host usage of wood-boring coleopteran hosts. The cryptines have a clear modification series on their antennal tips from a simply tip to a hammer-like structure. The species with strongly modified antennae belong mostly to the tribe Cryptini and they utilise wood-boring beetles as hosts. Also, field observations on insect behaviour support this result.
  • Mäkinen, Hannu (Helsingin yliopisto, 2007)
    Genetic studies on phylogeography and adaptive divergence in Northern Hemisphere fish species such as three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) provide an excellent opportunity to investigate genetic mechanisms underlying population differentiation. According to the theory, the process of population differentiation results from a complex interplay between random and deterministic processes as well historical factors. The main scope in this thesis was to study how historical factors like the Pleistocene ice ages have shaped the patterns molecular diversity in three-spined stickleback populations in Europe and how this information could be utilized in the conservation genetic context. Furthermore, identifying footprints of natural selection at the DNA level might be used in identifying genes involved in evolutionary change. Overall, the results from phylogeographic studies indicate that the three-spined stickleback has colonized the Atlantic basin relatively recently but constitutes three major evolutionary lineages in Europe. In addition, the colonization of freshwater appears to result from multiple and independent invasions by the marine conspecifics. Molecular data together with morphology suggest that the most divergent freshwater populations are located in the Balkan Peninsula and these populations deserve a special conservation genetic status without warranting further taxonomical classification. In order to investigate the adaptive divergence in Fennoscandian three-spined stickleback populations several approaches were used. First, sequence variability in the Eda-gene, coding for the number of lateral plates, was concordant with the previously observed global pattern. Full plated allele is in high frequencies among marine populations whereas low plated allele dominates in the freshwater populations. Second, a microsatellite based genome scan identified both indications of balancing and directional selection in the three-spined stickleback genome, i.e. loci with unusually similar or unusually different allele frequencies over populations. The directionally selected loci were mainly associated with the adaptation to freshwater. A follow up study conducting a more detailed analysis in a chromosome region containing a putatively selected gene locus identified a fairly large genomic region affected by natural selection. However, this region contained several gene predictions, all of which might be the actual target of natural selection. All in all, the phylogeographic and adaptive divergence studies indicate that most of the genetic divergence has occurred in the freshwater populations whereas the marine populations have remained relatively uniform.
  • Kontula, Tytti (Helsingin yliopisto, 2003)
  • Nikula, Raisa (Helsingin yliopisto, 2008)
    This study addressed the large-scale molecular zoogeography in two brackish water bivalve molluscs, Macoma balthica and Cerastoderma glaucum, and genetic signatures of the postglacial colonization of Northern Europe by them. The traditional view poses that M. balthica in the Baltic, White and Barents seas (i.e. marginal seas) represent direct postglacial descendants of the adjacent Northeast Atlantic populations, but this has recently been challenged by observations of close genetic affinities between these marginal populations and those of the Northeast Pacific. The primary aim of the thesis was to verify, quantify and characterize the Pacific genetic contribution across North European populations of M. balthica and to resolve the phylogeographic histories of the two bivalve taxa in range-wide studies using information from mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and nuclear allozyme polymorphisms. The presence of recent Pacific genetic influence in M. balthica of the Baltic, White and Barents seas, along with an Atlantic element, was confirmed by mtDNA sequence data. On a broader temporal and geographical scale, altogether four independent trans-Arctic invasions of Macoma from the Pacific since the Miocene seem to have been involved in generating the current North Atlantic lineage diversity. The latest trans-Arctic invasion that affected the current Baltic, White and Barents Sea populations probably took place in the early post-glacial. The nuclear genetic compositions of these marginal sea populations are intermediate between those of pure Pacific and Atlantic subspecies. In the marginal sea populations of mixed ancestry (Barents, White and Northern Baltic seas), the Pacific and Atlantic components are now randomly associated in the genomes of individual clams, which indicates both pervasive historical interbreeding between the previously long-isolated lineages (subspecies), and current isolation of these populations from the adjacent pure Atlantic populations. These mixed populations can be characterized as self-supporting hybrid swarms, and they arguably represent the most extensive marine animal hybrid swarms so far documented. Each of the three swarms still has a distinct genetic composition, and the relative Pacific contributions vary from 30 to 90 % in local populations. This diversity highlights the potential of introgressive hybridization to rapidly give rise to new evolutionarily and ecologically significant units in the marine realm. In the south of the Danish straits and in the Southern Baltic Sea, a broad genetic transition zone links the pure North Sea subspecies M. balthica rubra to the inner Baltic hybrid swarm, which has about 60 % of Pacific contribution in its genome. This transition zone has no regular smooth clinal structure, but its populations show strong genotypic disequilibria typical of a hybrid zone maintained by the interplay of selection and gene flow by dispersing pelagic larvae. The structure of the genetic transition is partly in line with features of Baltic water circulation and salinity stratification, with greater penetration of Atlantic genes on the Baltic south coast and in deeper water populations. In all, the scenarios of historical isolation and secondary contact that arise from the phylogeographic studies of both Macoma and Cerastoderma shed light to the more general but enigmatic patterns seen in marine phylogeography, where deep genetic breaks are often seen in species with high dispersal potential.
  • Leppänen, Jenni (Helsingin yliopisto, 2012)
    One of the main questions in evolutionary biology is what causes genetic differentiation among populations and the origin of new species. In this thesis I studied genetic differentiation of populations by testing how changes in the environment and behaviour have affected populations of Myrmica ants (Formicidae, Hymenoptera). First, I used a phylogeographic approach to find out how climatic changes during and after the last glaciation have affected populations of two Palearctic ant species Myrmica rubra and M. ruginodis. The aim was to locate their glacial refugia and postglacial recolonization routes, and to test whether differences in their cold tolerance and life-history traits have affected their phylogeographic structures and locations of their glacial refugia. Second, I studied the effect of behavioural differences on populations of M. rubra. I examined genetic differentiation and reproductive isolation of an intraspecific microgynous social parasite and its macrogynous host using both genetic and behavioural approaches. The aim was to clarify whether social parasitism as an alternative reproductive tactic may lead to speciation in sympatry. The results of this thesis show that differences in life-history traits have had no effect on the phylogeographic structures of M. rubra and M. ruginodis. Both species have survived the last glaciation in several refugia in Southern Europe but probably also in regions further east and north. Circumstantial evidence suggests that the more cold-tolerant M. ruginodis has survived in refugia more north than M. rubra. Both species have recolonized the northern areas from the south-west and south-east, and probably also from the east. Both genetic and behavioural evidence suggested that in M. rubra the parasite and host are reproductively isolated. They differed substantially in their nuclear DNA, indicating that the parasite is in the process of speciation. However, the mitochondrial lineages of the host and the parasite have not yet diverged. This thesis brings new information on the history of Palearctic insects and the effects of the past environmental changes on their populations. This thesis also clarifies the evolution of social parasitism and provides new evidence for a probable example of sympatric speciation through an alternative reproductive tactic, social parasitism.
  • Knopp, Theresa (Helsingin yliopisto, 2008)
    The ongoing climate change along with increasing levels of pollutants, diseases, habitat loss and fragmentation constitute global threats to the persistence of many populations, species and ecosystems. However, for the long-term persistence of local populations, one of the biggest threats is the intrinsic loss of genetic variation. In order to adapt to changes in the environment, organisms must have a sufficient supply of heritable variation in traits important for their fitness. With a loss of genetic variation, the risk of extinction will increase. For conservational practices, one should therefore understand the processes that shape the genetic population structure and also the broader (historical) phylogenetic patterning of the species in focus. In this thesis, microsatellite markers were applied to study genetic diversity and population differentiation of the protected moor frog (Rana arvalis) in Fennoscandia from both historical (evolutionary) and applied (conservation) perspectives. The results demonstrate that R. arvalis populations are highly structured over rather short geographic distances. Moreover, the results suggest that R. arvalis recolonized Fennoscandia from two directions after the last ice age. This has had implications for the genetic structuring and population differentiation, especially in the northernmost parts where the two lineages have met. Compared to more southern populations, the genetic variation decreases and the interpopulation differentiation increases dramatically towards north. This could be an outcome of serial population bottlenecking along the recolonization route. Also, current isolation and small population sizes increase the effect of drift, thus reinforcing the observed pattern. The same pattern can also be seen in island populations. However, though R. arvalis on the island of Gotland has lost most of its neutral genetic variability, our results indicate that the levels of additive genetic variation have remained high. This conforms to the conjecture that though neutral markers are widely used in conservation purposes, they may be quite uninformative about the levels of genetic variation in ecologically important traits. Finally, the evolutionary impact of the typical amphibian mating behaviour on genetic diversity was investigated. Given the short time available for larval development, it is important that mating takes place as early as possible. The genetic data and earlier capture-recapture data suggest that R. arvalis gather at mating grounds they are familiar with. However, by forming leks in random to relatedness, and having multiple paternities in single clutches, the risk of inbreeding may be minimized in this otherwise highly philopatric species.
  • Puhakainen, Tuula (Helsingin yliopisto, 2004)