Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Wildland Resources


Karen E. Mock


Understanding reproductive isolation and divergence is the focus of speciation research. Recent evidence suggested that some Dendroctonus ponderosae populations produced hybrids with reproductive incompatibilities, a reproductive boundary undetected by phylogeographic analyses using molecular markers. Additionally, the unique bifurcated distribution of D. ponderosae and the proposed isolation-by-distance gene flow pattern around the Great Basin Desert provided a unique opportunity to investigate the evolution of postmating (postyzygotic) isolation while also understanding phenotypic divergence along latitudinal (climatic) gradients. First, I characterized the strength, biological pattern, and geographic pattern of postzygotic isolation in D. ponderosae by crossing increasingly divergent populations in a common garden environment. There was little evidence of hybrid inviability in these crosses, yet geographically distant crosses produced sterile males, consistent with expectations under Haldane's rule. Hybrid male sterility appeared at a threshold among increasingly divergent populations, was bidirectional (reciprocal crosses were affected), and less geographically distant crosses did not show significant gender-specific decreases in fitness. Second, a separate investigation of two critical phenotypic traits (body size and development time) was conducted on intrapopulation F2 generation offspring from a common garden experiment. Genetic differences contributing to phenotypic variance were interpreted within the context of the previously described reproductive incompatibilities, gene flow patterns, and latitudinal gradients. Genetic differences in development time were striking between faster developing and more synchronized northern populations and slower developing, less synchronized southern populations. Differences in development time were not detected between populations at similar latitudes. Body size, although more variable than developmental time, generally conformed to expectations, with northern populations being smaller than southern populations. Average adult size was found to be quite different between many populations and did vary between populations at similar latitudes, yet relative sexual size dimorphism was rather consistent. There was no evidence of correspondence between phenotypic traits (body size and development time) and either reproductive boundaries or gene flow patterns. The results suggest that latitudinally imposed climatic differences are likely driving phenotypic divergence between populations.

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