Marine Biology

, Volume 142, Issue 5, pp 937–947

Sibling species or poecilogony in the polychaete Scoloplos armiger?


DOI: 10.1007/s00227-002-1007-2

Cite this article as:
Kruse, I., Reusch, T.B.H. & Schneider, M.V. Marine Biology (2003) 142: 937. doi:10.1007/s00227-002-1007-2


In marine invertebrates multiple modes of development, or poecilogony, may occur in a single species. However, after close examination, many of such putative cases turned out to be sibling species. A case in point may be the cosmopolitan orbiniid polychaete Scoloplos armiger, which inhabits marine shallow sediments. In addition to the well-known direct, holobenthic development from egg cocoons, pelagic larvae have also been described. Our culture experiments revealed a spatially segregated source of the two developmental modes. All females of an intertidal population produced egg cocoons and no pelagic larvae. All but 2 out of 15 females of an adjacent subtidal population produced pelagic larvae and no egg cocoons. Based on these results we performed a molecular genetic analysis (RAPD-PCR) on three intertidal and four subtidal populations in the North Sea. Selected samples from all sites were analysed also by the AFLP method. We found significantly higher genetic diversity within subtidal than within intertidal populations. This is consistent with a wider dispersal by pelagic larvae and a smaller effective population size when development is holobenthic. Total genetic divergence is not related to distance but to the intertidal/subtidal division. We suggest that S. armiger actually represents two sibling species.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Alfred-Wegener-Institut für Polar- und MeeresforschungWattenmeerstation SyltListGermany
  2. 2.Max Planck Institute for LimnologyDepartment of Evolutionary EcologyPlönGermany
  3. 3.Section Animal Ecology, Institute of Evolutionary and Ecological SciencesUniversity of LeidenLeidenThe Netherlands