Evolutionary Patterns in Pearl Oysters of the Genus Pinctada (Bivalvia: Pteriidae)
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Pearl oysters belonging to the genus Pinctada (Bivalvia: Pteriidae) are widely distributed between the Indo-Pacific and western Atlantic. The existence of both widely distributed and more restricted species makes this group a suitable model to study diversification patterns and prevailing modes of speciation. Phylogenies of eight out of the 11 currently recognised Pinctada species using mitochondrial (cox1) and nuclear (18S rRNA) data yielded two monophyletic groups that correspond to shell size and presence/absence of hinge teeth. Character trace of these morphological characters onto the molecular phylogeny revealed a strong correlation. Pinctada margaritifera appears polyphyletic with specimens from Mauritius grouping in a different clade from others of the French Polynesia and Japan. Hence, P. margaritifera might represent a species complex, and specimens from Mauritius could represent a different species. Regarding the putative species complex Pinctada fucata/Pinctada martensii/Pinctada radiata/Pinctada imbricata, our molecular analyses question the taxonomic validity of the morphological characters used to discriminate P. fucata and P. martensii that exhibited the lowest genetic divergence and are most likely conspecific as they clustered together. P. radiata and P. imbricata were recovered as monophyletic. The absence of overlapping distributions between sister lineages and the observed isolation by distance suggests that allopatry is the prevailing speciation mode in Pinctada. Bayesian dating analysis indicated a Miocene origin for the genus, which is consistent with the fossil record. The northward movement of the Australian plate throughout the Miocene played an important role in the diversification process within Pinctada.