Colonization history of the western corn rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera virgifera) in North America: insights from random forest ABC using microsatellite data.
First described from western Kansas, USA, the western corn rootworm, Diabrotica virgifera virgifera, is one of the worst pests of maize. The species is generally thought to be of Mexican origin and to have incidentally followed the expansion of maize cultivation into North America thousands of years ago. However, this hypothesis has never been investigated formally. In this study, the genetic variability of samples collected throughout North America was analysed at 13 microsatellite marker loci to explore precisely the population genetic structure and colonization history of D. v. virgifera. In particular, we used up-to-date approximate Bayesian computation methods based on random forest algorithms to test a Mexican versus a central-USA origin of the species, and to compare various possible timings of colonization. This analysis provided strong evidence that the origin of D. v. virgifera was southern (Mexico, or even further south). Surprisingly, we also found that the expansion of the species north of its origin was recent-probably not before 1100 years ago-thus indicating it was not directly associated with the early history of maize expansion out of Mexico, a far more ancient event.