The tea green leafhopper, Empoasca (Matsumurasca) onukii Matsuda, is one of the dominant pests in major tea production regions of East Asia. Recent morphological studies have revealed variation in the male genitalic structures within and among populations. However, the genetic structure of this pest remains poorly understood. This study explores the genetic diversity and population structure of this pest in nineteen populations from the four main Chinese tea production areas using microsatellite markers, with one Japanese population also examined. The results show low to moderate levels of genetic differentiation with populations grouped into four clusters, i.e. the Jiangbei group, the Southwest group 1, the Southwest group 2 and the South China group. Populations from China have a close phylogenetic relationship but show significant isolation by distance. Lower genetic diversity and genetic differentiation of E. (M.) onukii were found in the Kagoshima population of Japan. Evidence for genetic bottlenecks was detected in the South China and Jiangnan populations. Population expansion was found in the Southwest, Jiangbei and Kagoshima populations. This is the most extensive study of the population genetics of this species and contributes to our understanding of its origin and evolutionary history.
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