Honors Program Theses


Honors Program Thesis (UNI Access Only)

First Advisor

James Demastes, Honor Thesis Advisor


Mallophaga--Middle West--Genetics; Mallophaga--Middle West--Geographical distribution; Pocket gophers--Parasites--Middle West;


The focus of my project was to investigate a specific mitochondrial gene within lice specimens found on gophers from Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. This is so that we could compare their genetic similarities and differences to distinguish the relatedness of the lice and compare this to their geographic distribution. This work aimed to investigate the concept of ring species and to see if the lice found in this area are becoming more genetically different across the barrier of the upper Mississippi River with a potential corridor for gene flow across the smaller tributaries in the extreme north of the animals’ distribution. To accomplish this research, genetic analysis of lice mitochondrial genes was performed using PCR, gel electrophoresis, and genomic sequencing. Once DNA sequences were obtained, they were proofread, polished, and arranged into a phylogenetic tree. The results were different than expected and it was then determined that nuclear copies of mitochondrial DNA were also amplified during PCR. Results gathered from the mitochondrial genes proper only provided weak support for my hypothesis of an exclusively northern corridor as there was some evidence of gene flow across the Mississippi River near northeastern Iowa. However, these results are not contrary to the proposed hypothesis as they still exhibit speciation of the lice in similar fashion to ring species. Further collection and study of specimen samples along with finer resolution methodology may aid future research in drawing more conclusive results

Year of Submission



Department of Biology

University Honors Designation

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (22 pages)



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