Genetic variation in the eastern subterranean termite Reticulitermes flavipes (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae)



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Texas A&M University


The eastern subterranean termite, Reticulitermes flavipes, is the most widely dispersed termite in North America. The genus Reticulitermes spp. is responsible for 80% of total termite damage caused to urban structures each year. Little is known about the genetic structure of termites, particularly at the colony level. Evidence for what genetically defines a termite colony is a hotly debated topic in current literature due to the implications such findings would have regarding current lawsuits against pest control operations. Information on termite genetic structure is sparse. In this study, the genetic variation and gene flow among Texas populations of R. flavipes at the statewide level and city level was examined. A 324-337 base pairs segment of the mtDNA, AT-rich region was a polymerase chain reaction amplified from 104 different termite specimens from 12 Texas cities. The DNA extracts were then subjected to PCR amplification using specific primers and it was then sequenced. Using the sequence data and appropriate statistical measures it was found that, at the statewide level, nucleotide and haplotypic diversity is low. Gene flow was found to be low on a statewide basis. At the city level nucleotide and haplotypic diversity was high. The findings of this study provide insights into termite genetic structure.