Genome Size in North American Fireflies: Substantial Variation Likely Driven by Neutral Processes. Academic Article uri icon


  • Eukaryotic genomes show tremendous size variation across taxa. Proximate explanations for genome size variation include differences in ploidy and amounts of noncoding DNA, especially repetitive DNA. Ultimate explanations include selection on physiological correlates of genome size such as cell size, which in turn influence body size, resulting in the often-observed correlation between body size and genome size. In this study, we examined body size and repetitive DNA elements in relationship to the evolution of genome size in North American representatives of a single beetle family, the Lampyridae (fireflies). The 23 species considered represent an excellent study system because of the greater than 5-fold range of genome sizes, documented here using flow cytometry, and the 3-fold range in body size, measured using pronotum width. We also identified common genomic repetitive elements using low-coverage sequencing. We found a positive relationship between genome size and repetitive DNA, particularly retrotransposons. Both genome size and these elements were evolving as expected given phylogenetic relatedness. We also tested whether genome size varied with body size and found no relationship. Together, our results suggest that genome size is evolving neutrally in fireflies.

published proceedings

  • Genome Biol Evol

altmetric score

  • 3.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Lower, S. S., Johnston, J. S., Stanger-Hall, K. F., Hjelmen, C. E., Hanrahan, S. J., Korunes, K., & Hall, D.

citation count

  • 33

complete list of authors

  • Lower, Sarah Sander||Johnston, J Spencer||Stanger-Hall, Kathrin F||Hjelmen, Carl E||Hanrahan, Shawn J||Korunes, Katharine||Hall, David

publication date

  • June 2017