Hidden diversity in Antarctica: Molecular and morphological evidence of two different species within one of the most conspicuous ascidian species


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Christoph.Held [ at ] awi.de

Abstract

The Southern Ocean is one of the most isolated marine ecosystems, characterized by high levels of endemism, diversity, and biomass. Ascidians are among the dominant groups in Antarctic benthic assemblages; thus, recording the evolutionary patterns of this group is crucial to improve our current understanding of the assembly of this polar ocean. We studied the genetic variation within Cnemidocarpa verrucosa sensu lato, one of the most widely distributed abundant and studied ascidian species in Antarctica. Using a mitochondrial and a nuclear gene (COI and 18S), the phylogeography of fifteen populations distributed along the West Antarctic Peninsula and Burdwood Bank/MPA Namuncurá (South American shelf) was characterized, where the distribution of the genetic distance suggested the existence of, at least, two species within nominal C. verrucosa. When reevaluating morphological traits to distinguish between genetically defined species, the presence of a basal disk in one of the genotypes could be a diagnostic morphological trait to differentiate the species. These results are surprising due to the large research that has been carried out with the conspicuous C. verrucosa with no differentiation between species. Furthermore, it provides important tools to distinguish species in the field and laboratory. But also, these results give new insights into patterns of differentiation between closely related species that are distributed in sympatry, where the permeability of species boundaries still needs to be well understood.



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ISI/Scopus peer-reviewed
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Published
Eprint ID
53093
DOI 10.1002/ece3.6504

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Ruiz, M. B. , Taverna, A. , Servetto, N. , Sahade, R. and Held, C. (2020): Hidden diversity in Antarctica: Molecular and morphological evidence of two different species within one of the most conspicuous ascidian species , Ecology and Evolution, 10 (15), pp. 8127-8143 . doi: 10.1002/ece3.6504


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