December 18, 2018

Our new paper entitled “Pollen metabarcoding as a tool for tracking long-distance insect migrations” has appeared in Molecular Ecology Resources.

It was led by Tomasz Suchan from our group in collaboration with the Roger Vila’s Butterfly Diversity and Evolution Lab in Barcelona.

In this paper, we propose an approach based on metabarcoding of pollen carried by insects as a tool for tracking their migratory routes. As a proof of concept, we apply this method to the study of the long‐distance migration of the butterfly Vanessa cardui, an emerging model for insect migration. We demonstrate efficient screening of pollen deposit on insect bodies and inference of likely source regions of migrations based on detected indicative plant species (specific for a possibly narrow geographical area) even after long-distance migration. So far, the studies of long-distance migrations were based on capture-mark-recapture experiments, stable isotope analysis or telemetry. The pollen metabarcoding approach proposed in our paper helps to overcome methodological limitations of those previous methods, such as low rates of recapture of marked individuals, unsuitability of telemetry for most of the insect species and low resolution of stable isotope analysis. Our results also demonstrate the possibility of regular insect-mediated transcontinental pollination, with potential implications for ecosystem functioning, agriculture and plant phylogeography.

You can find press releases related to our paper in ScienceDaily and Science in Poland services.


Suchan T, Talavera G, Sáez L, Ronikier M, Vila R, 2019. Pollen metabarcoding as a tool for tracking long‐distance insect migrations. Molecular Ecology Resources 19(1): 149–162. DOI