Polar Biology

, Volume 39, Issue 5, pp 925–945 | Cite as

Looking beneath the tip of the iceberg: diversification of the genus Epimeria on the Antarctic shelf (Crustacea, Amphipoda)

  • Marie L. VerheyeEmail author
  • Thierry Backeljau
  • Cédric d’Udekem d’Acoz
Original Paper


The amphipod genus Epimeria is very speciose in Antarctic waters. Although their brooding biology, massive and heavily calcified body predict low dispersal capabilities, many Epimeria species are documented to have circum-Antarctic distributions. However, these distribution records are inevitably dependent on the morphological species definition. Yet, recent DNA evidence suggests that some of these Epimeria species may be complexes of species with restricted distributions. Mitochondrial COI and nuclear 28S rDNA sequence data were used to infer evolutionary relationships among 16 nominal Epimeria species from the Antarctic Peninsula, the eastern Weddell Sea and the Adélie Coast. Based on this phylogenetic framework, we used morphology and the DNA-based methods GMYC, bPTP and BPP to investigate species boundaries, in order to revise the diversity and distribution patterns within the genus. Most of the studied species appeared to be complexes of pseudocryptic species, presenting small and previously overlooked morphological differences. Altogether, 25 lineages were identified as putative new species, increasing twofold the actual number of Antarctic Epimeria species. Whereas most of the species may be geographically restricted to one of the three studied regions, some still have very wide distribution ranges, hence suggesting a potential for large-scale dispersal.


Amphipoda Southern Ocean Systematics Biogeography Species delimitation Phylogeny 



The first author has a Ph.D. fellowship from F.R.I.A. (F.N.R.S., Belgium). The last author was funded by the Digit 3 program of BELSPO. We thank the Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrumfür Polar- und Meeresforschung (AWI) and the captain, crew and chief scientists of various R.V. Polarstern expeditions for their efficiency, as well as present and past colleagues of the staff of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS), especially Henri Robert and Charlotte Havermans, for collecting specimens on board. The research program led by Guillaume Lecointre, REVOLTA 1124, supported by the Institut polaire français Paul Émile Victor (IPEV) and the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle (MNHN), and the CAML-CEAMARC cruise of RSV Aurora Australis (IPY project no. 53), supported by the Australian Antarctic Division, the Japanese Science Foundation and the IPEV (project ICOTA), are acknowledged for providing extensive biological material used in this study. We thank Laure Corbari (MNHN) for giving us access to this material. This publication is registered as CAML (Census of Antarctic Marine Life) publication No. 164 and contribution No. 210 to ANDEEP. Many thanks to Anton Van de Putte (RBINS) for kindly providing distribution maps. We are also grateful to Zohra Elouaazizi, Karin Breugelmans, Gontran Sonet and Zoltan Nagy (all RBINS) for helpful methodological advices.

Supplementary material

300_2016_1910_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (969 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 969 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marie L. Verheye
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Thierry Backeljau
    • 1
    • 3
  • Cédric d’Udekem d’Acoz
    • 1
  1. 1.Royal Belgian Institute of Natural SciencesBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Marine Biology Laboratory, Department of BiologyCatholic University of Louvain-la-NeuveLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium
  3. 3.Evolutionary Ecology GroupUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium

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