, Volume 735, Issue 1, pp 95–110 | Cite as

Molecular phylogeny, taxonomy, and distribution of French Unio species (Bivalvia, Unionidae)

  • Vincent PriéEmail author
  • Nicolas Puillandre


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.


Freshwater mussels Molecular systematic Species delimitation Barcoding gap Conservation genetics 



Benjamin Adam (Biotope), Jean-Michel Bichain, Michel Bramard (Office National de l’Eau et des Milieux Aquatiques), Gilbert Cochet, Xavier Cucherat (Biotope), Erwann Jacquin (Deli-Sports), Florent Lamand (Office National de l’Eau et des Milieux Aquatiques), Olivier Hesnard, Patrick Le Mao, Joseph Mateï (Office National de l’Eau et des Milieux Aquatiques), Marie-Lilith Patou (Biotope), Pierre-Yves Pasco (Bretagne vivante), Henri Persat (Laboratoire d’Ecologie des Hydrosystèmes Naturels et Anthropisés), Laurent Philippe (Biotope), Ludwick Simon (Biotope), Sylvain Vrignaud and Antoine Wagner all took part in the sampling effort. Gérard Tardivo (Direction Régionale de l’Environnement, de l’Aménagement et du Logement de la région Centre) and Stephane Laine (Ministère de l’Ecologie, du Développement Durable et de l’Energie) sanctioned a special authorization for sampling the protected species U. crassus. The authors also thank Barbara Buge for her help in curating the MNHN collection and Rafael Araujo and Gargo Fontaine for constructive discussions during the redaction of this paper. Ian Killeen has edited the English. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments that allowed improving the overall quality of the manuscript. This study was completed with financial support of Biotope (PI Frederic Melki) and grants from Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle à Paris ATM Barcode (PIs Sarah Samadi and Jean-Noël Labat) and Agence Nationale de la Recherche “6eme extinction” (PI Philippe Bouchet).

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 298 kb)
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Supplementary material 5 (PDF 198 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Département Systématique et ÉvolutionUSM 603/UMR 7138 “Systématique, Adaptation, Évolution”, Équipe “Exploration de la Biodiversité”Paris Cedex 05France
  2. 2.Service Recherche et DéveloppementBiotopeMèzeFrance

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