Xerothermic habitats are relics of Eurasian steppes, and steppic species are highly threatened due to unfavorable climatic conditions and anthropogenic transformations. Studies on xerothermic beetles have been initiated by the zoogeographic and taxonomic research of Professor Mieczysław Mazur and Dr. Daniel Kubisz.
Studies using genetic tools have naturally progressed out of these studies. The history, current diversity, and isolation level of populations of selected xerothermic (steppic) beetle species and the recognition of relations among steppic coleopterofauna and their host plants were examined in 2010-2015.
Molecular markers were used to elaborate the population genetics of selected xerothermic beetle species from Central-East Europe. The phylogeography and conservation genetics of several beetle species were examined: three weevils (Curculionidae), three leaf beetles (Chrysomelidae), and one jevel beetle (Buprestidae). The results of these studies indicate that the history of steppic coleopterofauna predates much of the Holocene epoch, not only in the Pontic and Pannonian regions, but also in Poland. Low intraregional genetic variability was found, whereas populations from distant and isolated areas were highly differentiated. The identified evolutionary units had a conservation value, and some also indicated taxonomic distinctiveness.
The second step of the study concerned understanding the relations among xerothermic (steppic) beetles and their host plants from East-Central Europe. As a result of the executed analyses, the food preferences of 59 weevil and 55 leaf beetle species were identified using the barcode library for steppic plants (more than 150 species), and 224 trophic links were found. Host plants were verified or identified using traditional Sanger sequencing for mono- and oligophagous taxa and next generation sequencing for polyphagous. These analyses not only broadened our basic knowledge of the ecology of steppic assemblages, but also provide an important background for planning the conservation of xerothermic insects and plants in Europe.
Ministry of Higher Education and Science; no 3111/B/P01/2009/37; "Genetic structure of central-European populations of xerothermic beetles (Coleoptera: Buprestidae, Chrysomelidae): colonization history, level of isolation and taxonomic status" (PI: dr Daniel Kubisz, investigators from ISEA PAS: dr Łukasz Kajtoch; dr hab. Wiesław Babik); 2010-2013
National Science Centre; no N N303 612238; "Influence of xerothemic turfs isolation on genetic structure of Centricnemus leucogrammus populations: conservation implications" (PI: dr hab. Łukasz Kajtoch; investigators from ISEA PAS: dr Daniel Kubisz; dr hab. Wiesław Babik); 2010-2013
National Science Centre; no UMO-2011/01/B/NZ8/01491; "Beetles (Curculionoidea, Chrysomeloidea) and their host plants in threatened xerothermic environments: evolutionary and ecological interactions inferred from the analysis of DNA barcodes" PI: dr hab. Łukasz Kajtoch; investigators from ISEA PAS: dr Daniel Kubisz); 2011-2015
Kajtoch Ł., Cieślak E., Varga Z., Paul W., Mazur M.A., Sramkó G., Kubisz D. (accepted). Phylogeographic patterns of steppe species in Eastern Central Europe: a review and the implications for conservation. Biodiversity and Conservation.
Kajtoch Ł., Kubisz D., Heise W., Mazur M.A., Babik W.2015. Plant – herbivorous beetle networks: Molecular characterization of trophic ecology within a threatened steppic environment. Molecular Ecology. 24: 4023–4038.
Kajtoch Ł., Mazur M.A. 2015. The impact of environmental conditions on efficiency of host plant DNA barcoding for polyphagous beetles. Environmental Entomology. 44: 325-329
Heise W., Babik W., Kubisz D., Kajtoch Ł. 2015. A three-marker DNA barcoding approach for ecological studies of xerothermic plants and herbivorous insects from central Europe. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 177: 576–592
Mazur M.A., Kubisz D., Ścibior R. Kajtoch Ł. 2015. Zaciętka Cheilotoma musciformis – wymierający relikt stepowej koleopterofauny w Polsce. [Cheilotoma musciformis – endangered relic of steppe coleopterofauna in Poland]. Chrońmy Przyrodę Ojczystą. 71: 336–346
Kajtoch Ł., Mazur M., Kubisz D., Mazur M.A., Babik W. 2014. Low effective population sizes and limited connectivity in xerothermic beetles: Implications for the conservation of an endangered habitat. Animal Conservation 5: 454–466.
Mazur M.A., Kubisz D., Kajtoch Ł. 2014. Restricted geographic distribution and low genetic distinctiveness of steppic Crioceris quinquepunctata (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) populations in central-east Europe. Entomologica Fennica 25: 103–111.
Kajtoch Ł. 2014. A DNA metabarcoding study of a polyphagous beetle dietary diversity: the utility of barcodes and sequencing techniques. Folia Biologica (Krakow) 62: 223-234.
Kajtoch Ł., Kubisz D., Gutowski J.M., Babik W. 2014. Evolutionary units of Coraebus elatus (Coleoptera: Buprestidae) in central and eastern Europe - implications for origin and conservation. Insect Conservation and Diversity 7: 41–54.
Kajtoch Ł., Kubisz D., Lachowska-Cierlik D., Mazur M.A. 2013. Conservation genetics of endangered leaf-beetle Cheilotoma musciformis populations in Poland. Journal of Insect Conservation 17: 67–77.
Kubisz D., Kajtoch Ł., Mazur M.A., Lis A., Holecová M. 2012. Conservation genetics of highly isolated populations of xerothermic Crioceris quatuordecimpunctata (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). Invertebrate Biology 131: 333-344.
Kajtoch Ł., Brzyska-Nadachowska K., Babik W. 2012. Development and characterization of microsatellite loci in the Centricnemus leucogrammus weevil. Molecular Biology Reports 39: 11131-11136.
Kubisz D., Kajtoch Ł., Mazur M.A., Rizun V. 2012. Molecular barcoding for central- eastern European Crioceris leaf-beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). Central European Journal of Biology. 7: 69-76.
Kajtoch Ł., Korotyaev B., Lachowska-Cierlik D. 2012. Genetic distinctness of parthenogenetic forms of European Polydrusus weevils of the subgenus Scythodrusus. Insect Science 19: 183-194.
Kajtoch Ł. 2011. Conservation genetics of xerothermic beetles in Europe: the case of Centricnemus leucogrammus. Journal of Insect Conservation 15: 787-797.