Polar Biology

, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 513–521 | Cite as

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

  • Christoph HeldEmail author
  • Florian Leese
Original Paper


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 



Arne Nolte (University of Cologne) provided his microsatellite protocol ahead of print and offered valuable assistance during the initial test phase in the lab. For computational assistance and the development of the powerful computer programs “Phobos” and “ssr-stat” we thank Christoph Mayer (University of Bochum). Wolfgang Wägele (Museum Koenig, Bonn) discussed various aspects of the project with us. We also thank Joseph Eastman, Sven Thatje, and one anonymous reviewer for valuable comments and suggestions on the manuscript. This work was supported by the DFG grant He 3391/3 to Christoph Held (AWI Bremerhaven) and in part by NSF grant OPP 01-32032 to H. William Detrich (Northeastern University, Boston, USA). This is publication number 11 from the ICEFISH Cruise of 2004.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine ResearchBremerhavenGermany
  2. 2.Lehrstuhl für Spezielle ZoologieRuhr-University of BochumBochumGermany

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