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Data from: Flight loss linked to faster molecular evolution in insects


Mitterboeck, T. Fatima; Adamowicz, Sarah J. (2013), Data from: Flight loss linked to faster molecular evolution in insects, Dryad, Dataset,


The loss of flight ability has occurred thousands of times independently during insect evolution. Flight loss may be linked to higher molecular evolutionary rates because of reductions in effective population sizes (Ne) and relaxed selective constraints. Reduced dispersal ability increases population subdivision, may decrease geographical range size and increases (sub)population extinction risk, thus leading to an expected reduction in Ne. Additionally, flight loss in birds has been linked to higher molecular rates of energy-related genes, probably owing to relaxed selective constraints on energy metabolism. We tested for an association between insect flight loss and molecular rates through comparative analysis in 49 phylogenetically independent transitions spanning multiple taxa, including moths, flies, beetles, mayflies, stick insects, stoneflies, scorpionflies and caddisflies, using available nuclear and mitochondrial protein-coding DNA sequences. We estimated the rate of molecular evolution of flightless (FL) and related flight-capable lineages by ratios of non-synonymous-to-synonymous substitutions (dN/dS) and overall substitution rates (OSRs). Across multiple instances of flight loss, we show a significant pattern of higher dN/dS ratios and OSRs in FL lineages in mitochondrial but not nuclear genes. These patterns may be explained by relaxed selective constraints in FL ectotherms relating to energy metabolism, possibly in combination with reduced Ne.

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