Consequences of Insect Flight Loss for Molecular Evolutionary Rates and Diversification




Mitterboeck, T. Fatima

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


University of Guelph


This thesis investigates the molecular evolutionary and macroevolutionary consequences of flight loss in insects. Chapter 2 tests the hypothesis that flightless groups have smaller effective population sizes than related flighted groups, expected to result in a consistent pattern of increased non-synonymous to synonymous ratios in flightless lineages due to the greater effect of genetic drift in smaller populations. Chapter 3 tests the hypothesis that reduced dispersal and species-level traits such as range size associated with flightlessness increase extinction rates, which over the long term will counteract increased speciation rates in flightless lineages, leading to lower net diversification. The wide-spread loss of flight in insects has led to increased molecular evolutionary rates and is associated with decreased long-term net diversification. I demonstrate that the fundamental trait of dispersal ability has shaped two forms of diversity—molecular and species—in the largest group of animals, and that microevolutionary and macroevolutionary patterns do not necessarily mirror each other.



evolution, flight, transitions, insects, molecular rates, diversification, flightless, flight loss, dispersal, holometabola, insect species, species richness, effective population size, population size, population subdivision, macroevolution, microevolution, comparative method, substitution rates, dN/dS ratios, non-synonymous substitutions, nearly neutral theory, molecular clock, mitochondrial DNA, nuclear DNA, OXPHOS, COI, COX1, Cytochrome c oxidase subunit I, pterygota, speciation, extinction, whole-tree method, sister-group method