Rampant nuclear insertion of mtDNA across diverse lineages within Orthoptera (Insecta). Academic Article uri icon


  • Nuclear mitochondrial pseudogenes (numts) are non-functional fragments of mtDNA inserted into the nuclear genome. Numts are prevalent across eukaryotes and a positive correlation is known to exist between the number of numts and the genome size. Most numt surveys have relied on model organisms with fully sequenced nuclear genomes, but such analyses have limited utilities for making a generalization about the patterns of numt accumulation for any given clade. Among insects, the order Orthoptera is known to have the largest nuclear genome and it is also reported to include several species with a large number of numts. In this study, we use Orthoptera as a case study to document the diversity and abundance of numts by generating numts of three mitochondrial loci across 28 orthopteran families, representing the phylogenetic diversity of the order. We discover that numts are rampant in all lineages, but there is no discernable and consistent pattern of numt accumulation among different lineages. Likewise, we do not find any evidence that a certain mitochondrial gene is more prone to nuclear insertion than others. We also find that numt insertion must have occurred continuously and frequently throughout the diversification of Orthoptera. Although most numts are the result of recent nuclear insertion, we find evidence of very ancient numt insertion shared by highly divergent families dating back to the Jurassic period. Finally, we discuss several factors contributing to the extreme prevalence of numts in Orthoptera and highlight the importance of exploring the utility of numts in evolutionary studies.

published proceedings

  • PLoS One

altmetric score

  • 0.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Song, H., Moulton, M. J., & Whiting, M. F.

citation count

  • 39

complete list of authors

  • Song, Hojun||Moulton, Matthew J||Whiting, Michael F

editor list (cited editors)

  • Arthofer, W.

publication date

  • October 2014