, Volume 158, Issue 9, pp 2109-2124
Date: 27 May 2011

Worms without borders: genetic diversity patterns in four Brazilian Ototyphlonemertes species (Nemertea, Hoplonemertea)

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Abstract

Understanding the evolutionary processes from recent demographic history is especially difficult for interstitial organisms due to their poorly known natural history. In this study, the genetic variation and population history of the four Ototyphlonemertes (Diesing in Sitz ber Math Nat Kl Akad Wiss Wien 46:413–416, 1863) species were evaluated from samples collected along the Brazilian coast (between 27°31′S and 13°00′W) in 2006. The mitochondrial region cytochrome c oxidase subunit 3 (COX3) is analyzed to assess the genetic variation of these dioecious species. Although these species have a sympatric distribution along the coast, our data suggest that their levels of differentiation and their demographic histories differ sharply. There is strong evidence of gene flow among demes in O. erneba and O. evelinae, and their level of structuring is much lower than for the other two species. Indeed, the COX3 fragment reveals cryptic lineages in O. lactea and O. parmula. The results seem to contradict the high genetic structuring and low intrapopulational variability expected with the ecological constriction and habitat discontinuity faced by these organisms, meaning that there might be gene flow among populations or their dispersal capability has been underestimated.

Communicated by S. Uthicke.