Widely distributed Palearctic insects are ideal to study phylogeographic patterns owing to their high potential to survive in many Pleistocene refugia and-after the glaciation-to recolonize vast, continuous areas. Nevertheless, such species have received little phylogeographic attention. Here, we investigated the Pleistocene refugia and subsequent postglacial colonization of the common, abundant, and widely distributed ant Myrmica rubra over most of its Palearctic area, using mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). The western and eastern populations of M. rubra belonged predominantly to separate haplogroups, which formed a broad secondary contact zone in Central Europe. The distribution of genetic diversity and haplogroups implied that M. rubra survived the last glaciation in multiple refugia located over an extensive area from Iberia in the west to Siberia in the east, and colonized its present areas of distribution along several routes. The matrilineal genetic structure of M. rubra was probably formed during the last glaciation and subsequent postglacial expansion. Additionally, because M. rubra has two queen morphs, the obligately socially parasitic microgyne and its macrogyne host, we tested the suggested speciation of the parasite. Locally, the parasite and host usually belonged to the same haplogroup but differed in haplotype frequencies. This indicates that genetic differentiation between the morphs is a universal pattern and thus incipient, sympatric speciation of the parasite from its host is possible. If speciation is taking place, however, it is not yet visible as lineage sorting of the mtDNA between the morphs.
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