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Andrew King

Current Research

Population Genetics of Brown Trout and Sea Trout (Salmo trutta) in southern Britain

The Atlantic Aquatic Resource Conservation (AARC) Project is a European Union, Interreg IV-funded program with partners in Britain, Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal. Projects include river restoration, aquaculture and education and communication. More information can be found at

At the University of Exeter, we are using genetic methods to study resident Brown Trout and migratory Sea Trout to inform on the management of stocks in southern Britain. Anadromous salmonid fish are seen as key indicators of the health of the riverine habitats in which they spawn. Despite continuing efforts, populations are in decline.

The aim of this project is build up a picture of the marine phase of Sea Trout from southern British rivers so that they can be better protected by regional, national and European law. As a first step towards improving our knowledge base, we are examining the population genetic structure for native populations of Brown Trout from rivers known to have major Sea Trout runs. Initially, genetic data is being gathered for resident Brown Trout populations from potential source rivers of sea-caught fish. Samples for this phase of the project have been collected by the Environment Agency during their annual surveys of salmonid stocks from rivers from the Severn all the way round southern England to the Thames.

Samples are being screened for variation at 20 microsatellite loci. Initial results indicate significant genetic structuring, with south eastern chalk stream populations being distinct from populations from more acidic western rivers.


Previous Research

Population Genetics
Genetic Structure of Hydrobates pelagicus
Supervisor: Dr Rob Thomas, Cardiff University

An investigation into the population genetic structure of European Storm Petrels (Hydrobates pelagicus) using mtDNA control region sequencing. Birds were sampled at a site in southern Portugal during their spring migration and also at known breeding sites. Contrary to what has been found in other petrel species, preliminary results indicate a lack of population structure. We have also found an extreme sex ratio bias at the Portuguese site with >80% of captured birds being female.

Cryptic Speciation in British Earthworm species
Supervisor: Prof Bill Symondson, Cardiff University

Earthworms play a major role in many aspects of soil fertility, foodweb ecology and ecosystem functioning and hence are frequently the subjects of, for example, ecological and toxicological research. We demonstrated that species such as Allolobophora chlorotica, Aporrectodea longa, Apo. rosea and Lumbricus rubellus all comprise highly divergent lineages with species-level divergence at the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I (COI) gene. Analysis of mitochondrial DNA showed the presence of five, highly divergent lineages, suggesting the presence of multiple cryptic species within Allo. chlorotica.

Population genetics of the Salix alba/S. fragilis tetraploid willow complex.
Supervisor: Dr Jackie Barker, Rothamsted Research

This project looked at the population genetics of an allotetraploid willow complex, using nuclear microsatellite markers. Funded by the EU, this project was a collaboration between groups in Belgium, Austria, Italy and the United Kingdom.  The project involved screening >2000 samples from 80 European populations to answer questions on populations genetics and hybridization between these two willow species.

Population genetics and long distance gene flow in the aquatic macrophyte, Potamogeton pectinatus L.
Supervisor: Dr Richard Gornall, Leicester University
In my first post-doctoral project I studied bird-mediated gene flow in the aquatic macrophyte, Potamogeton pectinatus.  This work was part of a European Union funded project investigating bird-mediated propagule dispersal and gene flow between different catchments in zooplankton and aquatic plants. I looked at the effect that waterfowl dispersal of seed has on the genetic structure of populations of P. pectinatus and the closely related P. filiformis.  Nuclear DNA variation was generated using inter-simple sequence repeat (ISSR) PCR in populations along the major wildfowl migration route from summer feeding grounds on the Pechora Delta, northern Russia to wintering grounds in Britain, the Netherlands and southern Spain.

Phylogeography and Postglacial History of Native European Tree Species
Supervisor: Dr. Colin Ferris, Leicester University

My Ph.D. project was on the phylogeography of European tree species, using molecular markers. The species being used in the study were Alnus glutinosa, A. cordata, Sorbus aucuparia and Quercus robur/petraea. The main aim of the project was to gain an insight into the postglacial history of tree species from the present patterns of genetic variation that exist throughout Europe.

Predator-Prey Interactions
Diet of sympatric reedbed warblers
Supervisor: Dr Rob Thomas, Cardiff University

This was a short six month post, working on a ‘proof of concept’ project looking at identifying the invertebrate diet of three reedbed warbler species (Reed, Sedge and Cetti’s Warblers) by screening faecal DNA samples with general invertebrate primers. Products were cloned, sequenced and compared with those already available on the GenBank/Barcode of Life databases.

Spatial analysis of predation in agro-ecopsystems
Supervisor: Prof Bill Symondson, Cardiff University
This was a BBSRC funded project studying the effects of alternative prey on rates of predation on pest slugs and aphids by the beetle Pterostichus mealanrius. This involved screening DNA extracted from the gut of the predators for the presence of various prey species using PCR primers specific to the mitochondrial DNA of individual prey species. In total, each beetle is screened for predation on a total of 25 invertebrate preys using a series of multiplex PCR reactions.

Effects of biodiversity on the dynamics of predation in low-input arable systems: molecular approaches
Supervisor: Prof Bill Symondson & Prof Mike Bruford, Cardiff University

This project involved screening the gut contents of carabid beetle predators from a low-input arable farming system for the presence of various prey species using PCR primers specific to the mitochondrial DNA of individual prey species.  The project aimed to see how the beetle predators respond to changes in number and density of various prey species.



King RA, Symondson WOC & Thomas RJ (submitted) Barcoding warbler diet. Ibis

Moreno-Ripoll R, Gabarra R, Symondson WOC, King RA & AgustíN (submitted) Effect of intraguild predation between the predators Macrolophus pygmaeus and Nesidiocoris tenuis, and the parasitoid Eretmocerus mundus, on Bemisia tabaci control. Biological Control

Davey JS, Vaughan IP, King RA, Bell JR, Bohan DA, Bruford MW, Holland JM & Symondson WOC (submitted) Unidirectional intraguild predation among aphid predators in winter wheat. Journal of Applied Ecology

In press



Medeiros RJ, King RA, Symondson WOC, Cadiou B, Zonfrillo B, Bolton M, Morton R, Howell S, Clinton A, Felgueiras M & Thomas RJ (2012) Molecular evidence for gender differences in the migratory behaviour of a small seabird. PLoS ONE 7: e46330

Moreno-Ripoll R, Gabarra R, Symondson WOC, King RA & AgustíN (2012) Trophic relationships between predators, whiteflies and their parasitoids in tomato greenhouses: a molecular approach. Bulletin of Entomolgical Research 102: 415-423

King RA, Davey JS, Bell JR, Read DS, Bohan DA & Symondson WOC (2012) Suction sampling as a significant source of error in molecular detection of predation studies. Bulletin of Entomolgical Research 102: 261-266

Hatteland BA,King RA, Symondson WOC & Solhøy T (2011) Molecular analysis of predation by carabid beetles (Carabidae) on the invasive Iberian slug Arion lusitanicus. Bulletin of Entomolgical Research 101: 675-686

Bluemel J, King RA, Wilson MR, Virant-Doberlet M & Symondson WOC (2011) Primers for identification of type and other archived specimens of Aphrodes leafhoppers (Hemiptera, Cicadellidae). Molecular Ecology Resources 11: 770-774

Dupont L, Lazrek F, Porco D, King RA, Rougerie R , Symondson WOC, Livet A, Richard B, Decaëns T, Butt KR & Mathieu J (2011) New insight into the genetic structure of the Allolobophora chlorotica aggregate in Europe using microsatellite and mitochondrial data. Pedobiologia 54: 217-224

Virant-Doberlet M, King RA, Polajnar J & Symondson WOC (2011) Molecular diagnostics reveal spiders that exploit prey vibrational signals used in sexual communication. Molecular Ecology 20: 2204-2216

King RA, Moreno-Ripoll R, Agustí N, Shayler SP, Bell JR, Bohan DA & Symondson WOC (2011) Multiplex reactions for the molecular detection of predation on pest and non-pest invertebrates in agroecosystems. Molecular Ecology Resources 11: 370-373

Bell JR, King RA, Bohan DA, & Symondson WOC (2010) Spatial co-occurrence networks coupled with molecular analysis of trophic links reveal the spatial dynamics and feeding histories of polyphagous predators. Ecography 33: 64-72

King RA, Vaughan IP, Bell JR, Bohan DA & Symondson WOC (2010) Prey choice by carabid beetles feeding on an earthworm community analysed using species- and lineage-specific PCR primers. Molecular Ecology 19: 1721-1732   

King RA, Harris SL, Karp A & Barker JHA (2010) Characterisation and inheritance of nuclear microsatellite loci for use in population studies of a tetraploid Salix alba-S. fragilis complex. Tree Genetics and Genomics 6: 247-258

Andre J, King RA, Sturzenbaum SR, Kille P, Hodson ME & Morgan AJ (2010) Molecular genetic differentiation in earthworms inhabiting a heterogeneous Pb-polluted landscape. Environmental Pollution 158: 883-890

King RA, Tibble AL & Symondson WOC (2008) Opening a can of worms: unprecedented sympatric cryptic diversity within British lumbricid earthworms. Molecular Ecology 17: 4684-4698

King RA, Read DS Traugott M & Symondson WOC (2008) Molecular analysis of predation: a review of best practice for DNA-based approaches. Molecular Ecology 17: 947-963

Harper GL, King RA, Dodd CS, Harwood JD, Glen D, Bruford MW & Symondson WOC (2005) Rapid screening of invertebrate predators for multiple prey DNA targets. Molecular Ecology 14: 819-827

Santamaría L, Figuerola J, Pilon JJ, Mjelde M, Green AJ, de Boer T, King RA & Gornall RJ (2003) Plant performance across latitude: the role of plasticity and local adaptation. Ecology 84: 2454-2461

King RA, Gornall RJ, Preston CD & Croft JM (2002) Population differentiation of Potamogeton pectinatus in the Baltic Sea with reference to waterfowl dispersal. Molecular Ecology 11: 1947-1956

King RA & Ferris C (2002) A variable minisatellite sequence in the chloroplast genome of Sorbus L. (Rosaceae: Maloideae). Genome 45: 570-576

King RA, Gornall RJ, Croft JM & Preston CD (2001) Molecular confimation of the parentage of Potamogeton x bottnicus in Britain. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 135: 67-70

Anttila CK, King RA, Ferris C, Ayres D & Strong DR (2000) Reciprocal hybrid formation of Spartina in San Francisco Bay. Molecular Ecology 9: 765-770

King RA & Ferris C (2000) Chloroplast DNA and nuclear DNA variation in the sympatric alder species, Alnus cordata (Lois.) Duby and A. glutinosa (L.) Gaertn. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 70: 147-160

Ferris C, King RA & Hewitt GM (1999) Isolation within species and the history of glacial refugia. in Hollingsworth, P.M., Bateman, R. & Gornall, R.J. (eds.) Molecular Systematics and Plant Evolution. Taylor & Francis, London

Ferris C, King RA, Väinölä R & Hewitt GM (1998) Chloroplast DNA recognizes three refugial sources of European oaks and suggests independent eastern and western immigrations to Finland. Heredity 80: 584-593

King RA & Ferris C (1998) National Forest, National Trees? East Midland Geographer 21: 62-66

King RA & Ferris C (1998) Chloroplast DNA phylogeography of Alnus glutinosa (L.) Gaertn. Molecular Ecology 7: 1151–1162

Ferris C, King RA & Gray AJ (1997) Molecular evidence for the maternal parentage in the hybrid origin of Spartina anglica C.E. Hubbard. Molecular Ecology 6: 185-187


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