Original Article

Heredity (1999) 82, 7–15; doi:10.1038/sj.hdy.6884120

Culex pipiens in London Underground tunnels: differentiation between surface and subterranean populations

Katharine Byrne1,2 and Richard A Nichols1

1Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, UK

Correspondence: Byrne Katharine, Conservation Genetics Group, Institute of Zoology, Regents Park, London NW1 4RY, UK E-mail: k.byrne@ucl.ac.uk

2Present address: Conservation Genetics Group, Institute of Zoology, Regents Park, London NW1 4RY, UK

Revised 5 December 1997; Accepted 3 March 1998.



Genetic variation was quantified between surface-dwelling populations of Culex pipiens and the so-called molestus form found in the London Underground (the Underground) railway system. The molestus form is a commercially important biting nuisance and in the southern part of its range is also a disease vector. The surface and subterranean populations were genetically distinct, with no evidence of gene flow between closely adjacent populations of the different forms, whereas there was little differentiation between the different populations of each form. The substantially reduced heterozygosity in the Underground populations and the allelic composition suggest that colonization of the Underground has occurred once or very few times. Breeding experiments show compatibility between the Underground populations but not with those breeding above ground. There is evidence of greater gene flow and a mixing of molestus and pipiens traits in the south of the species range. This paper considers the processes that may allow establishment of reproductive isolation in the north of the species range but not in the south.


Culex pipiens, population structure, reproductive isolation