, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 145-158

Evolution of the Mitochondrial Cytochrome Oxidase II Gene in Collembola

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The sequence of the mitochondrial COII gene has been widely used to estimate phylogenetic relationships at different taxomonic levels across insects. We investigated the molecular evolution of the COII gene and its usefulness for reconstructing phylogenetic relationships within and among four collembolan families. The collembolan COII gene showed the lowest A + T content of all insects so far examined, confirming that the well-known A + T bias in insect mitochondrial genes tends to increase from the basal to apical orders. Fifty-seven percent of all nucleotide positions were variable and most of the third codon positions appeared free to vary. Values of genetic distance between congeneric species and between families were remarkably high; in some cases the latter were higher than divergence values between other orders of insects. The remarkably high divergence levels observed here provide evidence that collembolan taxa are quite old; divergence levels among collembolan families equaled or exceeded divergences among pterygote insect orders. Once the saturated third-codon positions (which violated stationarity of base frequencies) were removed, the COII sequences contained phylogenetic information, but the extent of that information was overestimated by parsimony methods relative to likelihood methods. In the phylogenetic analysis, consistent statistical support was obtained for the monophyly of all four genera examined, but relationships among genera/families were not well supported. Within the genus Orchesella, relationships were well resolved and agreed with allozyme data. Within the genus Isotomurus, although three pairs of populations were consistently identified, these appeared to have arisen in a burst of evolution from an earlier ancestor. Isotomurus italicus always appeared as basal and I. palustris appeared to harbor a cryptic species, corroborating allozyme data.

Received: 12 January 1996 / Accepted: 10 August 1996