• Genome-wide SNP data reveal an overestimation of species diversity in a group of hawkmoths.

      Hundsdoerfer, AK; Lee, KM; Kitching, IJ; Mutanen, M (Oxford University Press, 2019-05-29)
      The interface between populations and evolving young species continues to generate much contemporary debate in systematics depending on the species concept(s) applied but which ultimately reduces to the fundamental question of “when do nondiscrete entities become distinct,mutually exclusive evolutionary units”? Species are perceived as critical biological entities, and the discovery and naming of new species is perceived by many authors as a major research aim for assessing current biodiversity before much of it becomes extinct.However, less attention is given to determining whether these names represent valid biological entities because this is perceived as both a laborious chore and an undesirable research outcome. The charismatic spurge hawkmoths (Hyles euphorbiae complex, HEC) offer an opportunity to study this less fashionable aspect of systematics. To elucidate this intriguing systematic challenge, we analyzed over 10,000 ddRAD single nucleotide polymorphisms from 62 individuals using coalescent-based and population genomic methodology. These genome-wide data reveal a clear overestimation of (sub)species-level diversity and demonstrate that the HEC taxonomy has been seriously oversplit. We conclude that only one valid species name should be retained for the entire HEC, namely Hyles euphorbiae, and we do not recognize any formal subspecies or other taxonomic subdivisions within it. Although the adoption of genetic tools has frequently revealed morphologically cryptic diversity, the converse, taxonomic oversplitting of species, is generally (and wrongly in our opinion) accepted as rare. Furthermore, taxonomic oversplitting is most likely to have taken place in intensively studied popular and charismatic organisms such as the HEC.
    • To remain or leave: Dispersal variation and its genetic consequences in benthic freshwater invertebrates

      Ruggeri, Paolo; Pasternak, E; Okamura, B (Wiley, 2019-10-18)
      Variation in dispersal capacity may influence population genetic variation and relatedness of freshwater animals thus demonstrating how life‐history traits influence patterns and processes that in turn influence biodiversity. The majority of studies have focused on the consequences of dispersal variation in taxa inhabiting riverine systems whose dendritic nature and upstream/downstream gradients facilitate characterizing populations along networks. We undertook extensive, large‐scale investigations of the impacts of hydrological connectivity on population genetic variation in two freshwater bryozoan species whose dispersive propagules (statoblasts) are either attached to surfaces (Fredericella sultana) or are released as buoyant stages (Cristatella mucedo) and that live primarily in either lotic (F. sultana) or lentic environments (C. mucedo). Describing population genetic structure in multiple sites characterized by varying degrees of hydrological connectivity within each of three (or four) UK regions enabled us to test the following hypotheses: (1) genetic diversity and gene flow will be more influenced by hydrological connectivity in populations of C. mucedo (because F. sultana dispersal stages are retained); (2) populations of F. sultana will be characterized by greater genetic divergence than those of C. mucedo (reflecting their relative dispersal capacities); and (3) genetic variation will be greatest in F. sultana (reflecting a propensity for genetic divergence as a result of its low dispersal potential). We found that hydrological connectivity enhanced genetic diversity and gene flow among C. mucedo populations but not in F. sultana while higher overall measures of clonal diversity and greater genetic divergence characterized populations of F. sultana. We suggest that genetic divergence over time within F. sultana populations reflects a general constraint of releasing propagules that might eventually be swept to sea when taxa inhabit running waters. In contrast, taxa that primarily inhabit lakes and ponds may colonize across hydrologically connected regions, establishing genetically related populations. Our study contributes more nuanced views about drivers of population genetic structures in passively dispersing freshwater invertebrates as outlined by the Monopolization Hypothesis (Acta Oecologica, 23, 2002, 121) by highlighting how a range of demographic and evolutionary processes reflect life‐history attributes of benthic colonial invertebrates (bryozoans) and cyclically parthenogenetic zooplankton. In addition, growing evidence that genetic divergence may commonly characterize populations of diverse groups of riverine taxa suggests that organisms inhabiting lotic systems may be particularly challenged by environmental change. Such change may predispose riverine populations to extinction as a result of genetic divergence combined with limited dispersal and gene flow.