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Open Access Research article

Mitochondrial genome evolution in fire ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

Dietrich Gotzek1*, Jessica Clarke2 and DeWayne Shoemaker3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland

2 Department of Entomology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, USA

3 USDA-ARS Center for Medical, Agricultural, and Veterinary Entomology, 1600/1700 SW 23rd Drive, Gainesville, Florida, USA

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10:300  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-300

Published: 7 October 2010

Abstract

Background

Complete mitochondrial genome sequences have become important tools for the study of genome architecture, phylogeny, and molecular evolution. Despite the rapid increase in available mitogenomes, the taxonomic sampling often poorly reflects phylogenetic diversity and is often also biased to represent deeper (family-level) evolutionary relationships.

Results

We present the first fully sequenced ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) mitochondrial genomes. We sampled four mitogenomes from three species of fire ants, genus Solenopsis, which represent various evolutionary depths. Overall, ant mitogenomes appear to be typical of hymenopteran mitogenomes, displaying a general A+T-bias. The Solenopsis mitogenomes are slightly more compact than other hymentoperan mitogenomes (~15.5 kb), retaining all protein coding genes, ribosomal, and transfer RNAs. We also present evidence of recombination between the mitogenomes of the two conspecific Solenopsis mitogenomes. Finally, we discuss potential ways to improve the estimation of phylogenies using complete mitochondrial genome sequences.

Conclusions

The ant mitogenome presents an important addition to the continued efforts in studying hymenopteran mitogenome architecture, evolution, and phylogenetics. We provide further evidence that the sampling across many taxonomic levels (including conspecifics and congeners) is useful and important to gain detailed insights into mitogenome evolution. We also discuss ways that may help improve the use of mitogenomes in phylogenetic analyses by accounting for non-stationary and non-homogeneous evolution among branches.