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Open Access Research article

Genetic structure of Leptopilina boulardi populations from different climatic zones of Iran

Majeed Askari Seyahooei12*, Jacques JM van Alphen3 and Ken Kraaijeveld1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Biology, Leiden University, P.O.Box 9505, 2300 RA Leiden, the Netherlands

2 Agricultural Research Center of Hormozgan, P.O.Box 79145/1577, Bandar Abbas, Iran

3 Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, P.O.Box 94248, 1090 GE Amsterdam, the Netherlands

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BMC Ecology 2011, 11:4  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-11-4

Published: 27 January 2011



The genetic structure of populations can be influenced by geographic isolation (including physical distance) and ecology. We examined these effects in Leptopilina boulardi, a parasitoid of Drosophila of African origin and widely distributed over temperate and (sub) tropical climates.


We sampled 11 populations of L. boulardi from five climatic zones in Iran and measured genetic differentiation at nuclear (Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism; AFLP) and mitochondrial (Cytochrome Oxidase I; COI) loci. An Analysis of Molecular Variance (AMOVA) for the AFLP data revealed that 67.45% of variation resided between populations. No significant variation was observed between climatic zones. However, a significant difference was detected between populations from the central (dry) regions and those from the wetter north, which are separated by desert. A similarly clear cut genetic differentiation between populations from the central part of Iran and those from the north was observed by UPGMA cluster analysis and Principal Coordinates Analysis (PCO). Both UPGMA and PCO further separated two populations from the very humid western Caspian Sea coast (zone 3) from other northern populations from the temperate Caspian Sea coastal plain (zone 2), which are connected by forest. One population (Nour) was genetically intermediate between these two zones, indicating some gene flow between these two groups of populations. In all analyses a mountain population, Sorkhabad was found to be genetically identical to those from the nearby coastal plain (zone 2), which indicates high gene flow between these populations over a short geographical distance. One population from the Caspian coast (Astaneh) was genetically highly diverged from all other populations. A partial Mantel test showed a highly significant positive correlation between genetic and geographic distances, as well as separation by the deserts of central Iran. The COI sequences were highly conserved among all populations.


The Iranian populations of L. boulardi showed clear genetic structure in AFLP profiles, but not in COI sequence data. The transfer of fruits containing Drosophila larvae parasitized by L. boulardi appears to have caused some unexpected gene flow and changed the genetic composition of populations, particularly in urban areas. Nevertheless, our results suggest that climate, geographic distance and physical barriers may all have contributed to the formation of genetically distinct populations of L. boulardi. Inevitably, there will be overlap between the portions of variance explained by these variables. Disentangling the relative contributions of climate and geography to the genetic structure of this species will require additional sampling.