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The banded garden spider (Argiope trifasciata) is a common orb weaver of old field habitats in the United States. In this study, we determined levels of genetic variability and gene flow among seven populations in central Pennsylvania, based on variation at eight allozyme loci. Mean heterozygosity (observed) per population was 7.5% and mean polymorphism was 39.3%, consistent with levels of variability in other arthropods. Values of GST for the four polymorphic loci (mean GST=0.011) suggest that gene flow prevents the genetic differentiation of these populations. The average number of migrants per generation (Nm) among these populations is estimated to be 31.3. The lack of significant interpopulation genetic differentiation among these disjunct populations may result from spiderling aerial dispersal (ballooning), a more continuous distribution of suitable habitat in the past, and perhaps the use of roadside vegetation as gene flow corridors. On the other hand, the study populations did not exhibit isolation-by-distance, suggesting that suitable habitat in our study area is experienced as less than continuous by A. trifasciata. Thus, although A. trifasciata is an excellent ballooner, ballooning does not confer unlimited access among all populations, which suggests that ballooning may be a far less effective means of long-distance dispersal than previously thought.

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Available at Heredity at doi:10.1038/sj.hdy.6885630.

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Ramirez MG, Haakonsen KE. Gene flow among habitat patches on a fragmented landscape in the spider Argiope trifasciata (Araneae: Araneidae). Heredity. 1999 83, 580–585. doi:10.1038/sj.hdy.6885630.

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