Diversity and speciation in Australia’s alpine biota are poorly understood. Here we present a molecular phylogeny of the Australian alpine grasshopper genus Kosciuscola (Sjösted) that currently includes five described species. These grasshoppers are of interest not only because of their alpine distribution but also for the extraordinary colour change exhibited by the species K. tristis, whose males turn turquoise when their body temperature exceeds 25°C. We reconstructed the phylogeny with two fragments of the mitochondrial genome using parsimony, maximum likelihood and Bayesian analyses and our data support the current taxonomy. Further, our data show little geographic structuring within some clades, which is puzzling since members of Kosciuscola are brachypterous. Finally, our data coupled with our observations on colouration provide evidence for a genetically distinct clade of K. tristis in the Victorian Alps. This is among the first molecular studies of an alpine invertebrate and one of a few on non-endangered, widespread Australian alpine species. More phylogenetic studies in the Australian Alps are required if we are to understand the evolution of alpine fauna and establish baseline data to monitor their response to climate change.
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Vol. 27 • No. 3