Development and application of 14 microsatellite markers in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides reveals population genetic differentiation at local spatial scales

Pascoal, S. & Kilner, R. M.
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Burying beetles (genus Nicrophorus) are relatively rare among insects in providing sophisticated parental care. Consequently, they have become model species in research analysing social evolution, the evolution of parental care and mating systems. We used the recently published N. vespilloides genome and transcriptome to develop microsatellite markers. Specifically, we developed 14 polymorphic markers with five to 13 alleles per locus and used them to investigate levels of genetic differentiation in four south Cambridgeshire (UK) populations of N. vespilloides, separated by 21 km at most. The markers revealed significant genetic structuring among populations (global FST = 0.023) with all but one of the pairwise comparisons among populations being significant. The single exception was the comparison between the two closest populations, which are approximately 2.5 km apart. In general, the microsatellite markers showed lower observed heterozygosity than expected. We infer that there is limited dispersal between populations and potentially also some inbreeding within them and suggest that this may be due to habitat fragmentation. We discuss these results in the context of recent laboratory experiments on inbreeding and beetle flight.