Using Polymorphic Microsatellites to Determine the Population Genetics of Vespula maculifrons

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Thompson, Veronica
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Social insects have an interesting genetic history and are studied in order to discern how their social behaviors affects their genetic makeup. The eastern yellowjacket Vespula maculifrons is one such species whose altruistic behaviors and caste system should negatively affect their genetic diversity but instead has fluorished for many years as a dominant species in their ecosystem. We investigated whether V. maculifrons follows the pattern of other social insects in having a small genetic diversity and therefore, a small effective population size. We sequenced seventeen polymorphic microsatellites of V. maculifrons of three different years that were chosen in accordance to the temporal method. We performed a Fixation Index test on the data with the three years as subpopulations in order to determine the differences in allele frequency amongst the groups over time. This was done in order to support our theory that V. maculifrons has a low amount of genetic diversity, which correlates to low amounts of allele fixation, and therefore a low effective population size. We found that the fixation index was significantly low, which supported this idea that not many alleles have gone to fixation. This would indicate that the effective population size is low because the population is still affected by genetic drift. In the future, a concrete calculation of the effective population size will be performed with combinations of multiple equations that can account for the many unique social traits of Vespula maculifrons. This will then help in order to add more information to the gap of knowledge on the fascinating genetic makeup of these unique social organisms.
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