Molecular phylogenetics and evolution

Dating and biogeographical patterns in the sea slug genus Acanthodoris Gray, 1850 (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Nudibranchia).

PMID 26752594


Recent studies investigating vicariance and dispersal have been focused on correlating major geological events with instances of taxonomic expansion by incorporating the fossil record with molecular clock analyses. However, this approach becomes problematic for soft-bodied organisms that are poorly represented in the fossil record. Here, we estimate the phylogenetic relationships of the nudibranch genus Acanthodoris Gray, 1850 using three molecular markers (16S, COI, H3), and then test two alternative geologically calibrated molecular clock scenarios in BEAST and their effect on ancestral area reconstruction (AAR) estimates employed in LAGRANGE. The global temperate distribution of Acanthodoris spans multiple geological barriers, including the Bering Strait (∼5.32 Mya) and the Baja Peninsula (∼5.5 Mya), both of which are used in our dating estimates. The expansion of the Atlantic Ocean (∼95-105 Mya) is also used to calibrate the relationship between A. falklandica Eliot, 1905 and A. planca Fahey and Valdés, 2005, which are distributed in southern Chile and South Africa respectively. Phylogenetic analyses recovered strong biogeographical signal and recovered two major clades representing northern and southern hemispheric distributions of Acanthodoris. When all three geological events are applied to the calibration analyses, the age for Acanthodoris is estimated to be mid-Cretaceous. When the expansion of the Atlantic Ocean is excluded from our analyses, however, Acanthodoris is estimated to be much younger, with a divergence time estimate during the Miocene. Regardless of divergence estimates, our AAR suggests that Acanthodoris may have origins in the Atlantic Ocean with the Atlantic acting as a dispersal point to the northeastern Pacific. These results suggest that Acanthodoris exhibits a rare instance of western trans-arctic expansion. This study also shows that northeast Pacific specimens of A. pilosa should be regarded as A. atrogriseata and that A. serpentinotus should be regarded as a synonym of A. pina.

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