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Asymmetric hybridization between non-native winter moth, Operophtera brumata (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), and native Bruce spanworm, Operophtera bruceata, in the Northeastern United States, assessed with novel microsatellites and SNPs

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 November 2016

N.P. Havill*
USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station, Hamden, Connecticut, USA
J. Elkinton
Department of Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA
J.C. Andersen
Department of Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA
S.B. Hagen
NIBIO, Norwegian Institute for Bioeconomy Research, Svanvik, Norway
Hannah J. Broadley
University of Massachusetts Amherst, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA
G.J. Boettner
Department of Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA
A. Caccone
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
*Author for correspondence Phone: 203-230-4320 Fax: 203-230-4315 E-mail:


The European winter moth, Operophtera brumata, is a non-native pest in the Northeastern USA causing defoliation of forest trees and crops such as apples and blueberries. This species is known to hybridize with O. bruceata, the Bruce spanworm, a native species across North America, although it is not known if there are hybrid generations beyond F1. To study winter moth population genetics and hybridization with Bruce spanworm, we developed two sets of genetic markers, single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and microsatellites, using genomic approaches. Both types of markers were validated using samples from the two species and their hybrids. We identified 1216 SNPs and 24 variable microsatellite loci. From them we developed a subset of 95 species-diagnostic SNPs and ten microsatellite loci that could be used for hybrid identification. We further validated the ten microsatellite loci by screening field collected samples of both species and putative hybrids. In addition to confirming the presence of F1 hybrids reported in previous studies, we found evidence for multi-generation asymmetric hybridization, as suggested by the occurrence of hybrid backcrosses with the winter month, but not with the Bruce spanworm. Laboratory crosses between winter moth females and Bruce spanworm males resulted in a higher proportion of viable eggs than the reciprocal cross, supporting this pattern. We discuss the possible roles of population demographics, sex chromosome genetic incompatibility, and bacterial symbionts as causes of this asymmetrical hybridization and the utility of the developed markers for future studies.

Research Papers
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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