Revealing the factors that promote divergence in the Bladder Grasshopper Bullacris unicolor (Orthoptera; Pneumoroidea)
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Variation in sympatric and allopatric populations is believed to be a precursor to eventual speciation. The dispersion of genes from one gene pool into another is prevented by various processes, including the founder effect, sexual selection, ecological differences and random genetic divergence. Examining patterns of intraspecific variation in phenotypic and genotypic traits may thus provide valuable insights into the processes that govern species origination. Bladder grasshoppers (Orthoptera; Pneumoroidea) are an ideal model system to investigate patterns of geographic and ecological divergence due to their high host plant specificity, low dispersal and distinctive acoustic signals. This dissertation investigates intraspecific diversification in the bladder grasshopper Bullacris unicolor (Orthoptera: Pneumoroidea). Recent research on this species has shown significant intra- and inter-population variation in male advertisement calls and morphological characters. However, the exact cause of this variation has remained unclear. Furthermore, a previous study showed that the calls of B. unicolor from one particular population are highly differentiated from other populations, possibly due to the effects of anthropogenic noise. Here we aim to examine the drivers of diversity within Bullacris unicolor by embracing a multidisciplinary approach that encompasses the effects of environmental factors, genetics, anthropogenic noise and host plant associated divergence.