Molecular phylogeny, taxonomy, and distribution of French Unio species (Bivalvia, Unionidae)
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- Prié, V. & Puillandre, N. Hydrobiologia (2014) 735: 95. doi:10.1007/s10750-013-1571-0
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A plethora of unionid names was established in the nineteenth century by the “Nouvelle Ecole”. Although naiad morphological plasticity is well documented, the currently recognized fauna, with 17 species and subspecies included in the French checklist for the Unio genus, is still based upon morphological characters only. Insights have been provided from molecular data elsewhere in Europe and North Africa, but the French fauna remains unstudied. We present a molecular phylogeny of the Unio genus in France based on COI, 16S and 28S genes; taking up all available data in Europe plus 273 specimens collected in all main French drainages. The results show that there are either three valid species in France, with U. pictorum and U. mancus synonymized, or five, with the subspecies U. crassus courtillieri elevated to species level. Subspecies were generally not recovered, which questions the evolutionary units tacitly implied by subspecific names. Although sampling topotypes is the most reliable way to evaluate the status of a nominal subspecies, major human-induced changes in aquatic hydrosystems challenge the method. Nevertheless, operational taxonomy has to rely on ground-truthed data and we propose to reduce the actual number of valid taxa in France to the seven observed operational taxonomic units.