Original Paper

Polar Biology

, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 513-521

First online:

The utility of fast evolving molecular markers for studying speciation in the Antarctic benthos

  • Christoph HeldAffiliated withAlfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research Email author 
  • , Florian LeeseAffiliated withAlfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine ResearchLehrstuhl für Spezielle Zoologie, Ruhr-University of Bochum

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


The Southern Ocean is surprisingly rich in species that coexist in one of the most extreme environments on Earth yet the processes leading to speciation in this ecosystem are not well understood. To remedy this, tools that measure the genetic connectedness within a species are needed. Although useful for phylogenetic purposes, the readily available mitochondrial markers (e.g. 16S, COI) suffer from numerous shortcomings for population genetics. Therefore, molecular markers are needed that are sufficiently variable, unlinked, biparentally inherited, and distributed over the whole genome. We argue that microsatellites are suitable markers that have not been widely used in exploratory studies due to their difficult initial set-up. Working with the Ceratoserolis trilobitoides species complex (Isopoda), we demonstrate that using a novel protocol many microsatellites can be identified quickly. An increased availability of these highly sensitive markers will be useful for studies addressing the origin of species in the Southern Ocean and their response to future climate change.


Antarctic benthos Population genetics Phylogeography Microsatellites Speciation