Species Delimitation and Invasion History of the Balsam Woolly Adelgid, Adelges (Dreyfusia) piceae (Hemiptera: Aphidoidea: Adelgidae), Species Complex

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Systematic Entomology






Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Publication Date


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NSF, Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) 1655182


NSF, Division of Environmental Biology (DEB)

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The Adelges (Dreyfusia) piceae (Ratzeburg) species complex is a taxonomically unstable group of six species. Three of the species are cyclically parthenogenetic [Ad. nordmannianae (Eckstein), Ad. prelli (Grossmann), and Ad. merkeri (Eichhorn)] and three are obligately asexual [Ad. piceae, Ad. schneideri (Börner), and Ad. nebrodensis (Binazzi & Covassi)]. Some species are high‐impact pests of fir (Abies) trees, so stable species names are needed to communicate effectively about management. Therefore, to refine species delimitation, guided by a reconstruction of their biogeographic history, we genotyped adelgids from Europe, North America, and the Caucasus Mountains region with 19 microsatellite loci, sequenced the COI DNA barcoding region, and compared morphology. Discriminant analysis of principal components of microsatellite genotypes revealed four distinct genetic clusters. Two clusters were morphologically consistent with Ad. nordmannianae. One of these clusters consisted of samples from the Caucasus Mountains and northern Turkey, and the other included samples from this region as well as from Europe and North America, where Ad. nordmannianae is invasive. A third cluster was morphologically consistent with Ad. piceae, and included individuals from Europe, where it is native, and North America, where it is invasive. In North America, the majority of Ad. piceae individuals were assigned to two geographically widespread clones, suggesting multiple introductions. The fourth cluster included individuals morphologically consistent with Ad. prelli or Ad. merkeri. However, based on genetic assignments, hybrid simulations, and approximate Bayesian computation, we find it likely that these are contemporary hybrids between Ad. nordmannianae and Ad. piceae that arose independently in Europe and North America, so we propose that Ad. prelli and Ad. merkeri are invalid. Finally, we synonymise Ad. schneideri (syn.n.) with Ad. nordmannianae and designate Ad. nebrodensis as subspecies Ad. piceae nebrodensis (stat.n.). Our revised taxonomy therefore recognises two species: Ad. nordmannianae and Ad. piceae, which we estimate to have diverged recently, during one of the last two interglacial periods. Finally, we comment on this species complex being in the midst of transition between sexual and asexual reproduction, a pattern that is probably common in Adelgidae.