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Integrative systematics of the genus Dondice Marcus, 1958 (Gastropoda, Nudibranchia, Myrrhinidae) in the Western Atlantic


The evolutionary relationships of the nudibranch genus Dondice Er. Marcus, 1958, its hypothesized synonym with Nanuca Er. Marcus, 1957, as well as its species-level diversity remain unresolved. Here, in order to assess the systematics of Dondice a molecular phylogenetic analysis based on cytochrome c oxidase I and 16S genes was carried out, including various representatives of the Myrrhinidae. As a result, Dondice is monophyletic and a valid genus, presenting morphological diagnostic features when compared to Nanuca. An integrative taxonomic approach focused on Western Atlantic Dondice occidentalis (Engel, 1925) and Dondice parguerensis Brandon & Cutress, 1985, including a broader geographic and morphological range of specimens, indicates that D. occidentalis constitutes a complex of six pseudocryptic species with geographically restricted ranges across the Western Atlantic, and D. parguerensis is a distinct, valid species. Dondice occidentalis s. str. is recognized as the species of the genus with the largest morphological variation, whereas the five new species, Dondice arianeae sp. nov., Dondice freddiemercuryi sp. nov., Dondice juansanchezi sp. nov., Dondice jupiteriensis sp. nov., and Dondice caboensis sp. nov. exhibit consistent morphological patterns, in agreement with molecular distinctiveness. Our study increases the number of known species of Dondice from four to nine and highlights the importance of addressing marine biodiversity within an integrative framework.

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All material was collected by the authors with permission of the host countries or states. We are deeply grateful to all colleagues and friends who provided their support during the different stages of this research: Karina Moreno, Sandra Muro, Kendall Feliciano, and Carla Stout with their help with lab protocols. Ariane Dimitris, Anne DuPont, Daniela Fernandes, and José Henrique Leal provided material for this study. Ronald Janssen of the Senckenberg Naturmuseum Frankfurt provided access to the type material of Dondice occidentalis. We thank the anonymous reviewers for their constructive criticism and valuable comments that improved the manuscript. We thank to the staff of the Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation (ITEC) in Bocas del Toro, Panama, specially to Peter Lahanas, Enrique Dixon, Itzel Dixon, and Janet for their collaboration in the field. Gabriel Jacome provided collaboration with the research permits in Panama. To the members of the Department of Marine Sciences of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, specially to Wendy Ortiz and members of the Schizas Lab: Jaaziel Garcia-Hernandez, Alex Veglia, and Nikolaos V. Schizas for their support during the field sampling in Puerto Rico.


KGM was supported by CRUSA Foundation Scholarship to pursue her Master’s degree in California. This work was partially supported by the award from the Unitas Malacologica Graduate student Grant to KGM. VP was supported by a research grant from FAPERJ (Programa de Apoio Emergencial ao Museu Nacional; Processo E-26/200.102/2019), Brazil. The SEM work was conducted at the facilities of the Cal Poly Pomona, with the assistance of Anan Hamdan.

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Correspondence to Kimberly García-Méndez.

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing interests.

Ethical approval

No animal testing was performed during this study.

Sampling and field studies

All necessary permits for sampling and observational field studies have been obtained by the authors from the competent authorities and are mentioned in the acknowledgements, if applicable. The study is compliant with CBD and Nagoya protocols.

Data availability

The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available on the Barcode of Life Data System (BOLD) and GenBank datasets repositories. Other datasets generated during and/or the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Author contribution

All authors contributed to specimen collections and molecular data obtained. KGM and AV conducted specimens’ dissections and recorded SEM micrographs. KGM carried out all molecular analyses. All the authors wrote sections in, edited, and approved the final manuscript.

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Communicated by K. Kocot

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García-Méndez, K., Padula, V. & Valdés, Á. Integrative systematics of the genus Dondice Marcus, 1958 (Gastropoda, Nudibranchia, Myrrhinidae) in the Western Atlantic. Mar. Biodivers. 52, 42 (2022).

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  • Mollusca
  • Heterobranchia
  • Facelinidae
  • Integrative taxonomy
  • Species delimitation
  • Pseudocryptic species