A hierarchial population genetic study was conducted on 703 individual Amblyomma americanum from nine populations in Georgia, U.S.A. Populations were sampled from the Coastal Plain, midland Piedmont region, and the upper Piedmont region. Twenty-nine distinct haplotypes were found. A minimum spanning tree was constructed that indicated these haplotypes comprised two lineages, the root of which was distinctly star-like. The majority of the variation found was among ticks within each population, indicating high amounts of gene flow and little genetic differentiation between the three regions. An overall FST value of 0.006 supported the lack of genetic structuring between collection sites in Georgia. Mantel regression analysis revealed no isolation by distance. Signatures of population expansion were detected in the shapes of the mismatch distribution and tests of neutrality. The absence of genetic differentiation combined with the rejection of the null model of isolation by distance may indicate recent range expansion in Georgia or insufficient time to reach an equilibrium where genetic drift may have affected allele frequencies. Alternatively, the high degree of panmixia found within A. americanum in Georgia may be due to bird-mediated dispersal of ticks increasing the genetic similarity between geographically separated populations.
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