CCNY grad student Connor French constructs first global map of insect mitochondrial genetic diversity

Understanding global patterns of species genetic diversity is an integral part of monitoring and preserving life on Earth. To date, however, scientists have mapped macrogenetic patterns in vertebrates exclusively. Macrogenetics uses publicly-available data to identify global drivers of genetic diversity. Only five percent of all known living animal species are vertebrates while 95 percent are invertebrates. More than half of invertebrates are insects.
“Insects are the most diverse group of organisms on the planet, but their species diversity is vastly under described,” said City College of New York biology graduate student, Connor French.
French and his collaborators constructed the first global map of insect  genetic diversity using data from the Barcode of Life database. For animals, including insects, a measurement of genetic diversity within any species can be calculated using a 650 base pair region on the mitochondrial genome.
French compiled and analyzed 2,415,425 globally distributed and georeferenced mitochondrial DNA sequences to determine the genetic diversities for  98,417 species defined by “operational taxonomic units” – groups of individuals organized by genetic similarity.
The first global map of insect genetic variation was generated by assessing the average genetic diversity among sampled species in an area, genetic diversity mean (GDM), and genetic diversity evenness, (GDE) the degree of uniformity of genetic diversity among individuals sampled in the same area.
Calculating the two measures across all the taxa studied revealed how GDM and GDE correlate with global environmental and geographic variables.
Regions with high GDM and high GDE (above the 90th percentile) were found in eastern North America, southern South America, southern Africa and southwestern Australia. Areas with the lowest values were located in northern North America and Europe. However, not all values were uniform. Significantly higher GDE values were observed in areas that do not freeze, a finding that did not hold with GDM. Both measurements were lower in the colder regions of the world.
“This study uses the largest global genetic dataset ever assembled [to study genetic diversity],” said French’s advisor and senior principal author on the paper, CCNY Professor of Biology Michael Hickerson. The study is a landmark first step in uncovering fundamental processes that drive global patterns of genetic diversity.
The study appears in the journal Nature Communications.

About the City College of New York

Since 1847, The City College of New York has provided a high-quality and affordable education to generations of New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. CCNY embraces its position at the forefront of social change. It is ranked #1 by the Harvard-based Opportunity Insights out of 369 selective public colleges in the United States on the overall mobility index. This measure reflects both access and outcomes, representing the likelihood that a student at CCNY can move up two or more income quintiles. Education research organization Degree Choices ranks CCNY #1 nationally among universities for economic return on investment. In addition, the Center for World University Rankings places CCNY in the top 1.8% of universities worldwide in terms of academic excellence. Labor analytics firm Emsi puts at $1.9 billion CCNY’s annual economic impact on the regional economy (5 boroughs and 5 adjacent counties) and quantifies the “for dollar” return on investment to students, taxpayers and society. At City College, more than 15,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in eight schools and divisions, driven by significant funded research, creativity and scholarship. This year, CCNY launched its most expansive fundraising campaign, ever. The campaign, titled “Doing Remarkable Things Together” seeks to bring the College’s Foundation to more than $1 billion in total assets in support of the College mission. CCNY is as diverse, dynamic and visionary as New York City itself. View CCNY Media Kit.

Erica Rex

e: |  

p: 845 668-0322