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When is a “cryptic” species not a cryptic species: A consideration from the Holarctic micro-landsnail genus Euconulus (Gastropoda: Stylommatophora)

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HORSÁKOVÁ Veronika NEKOLA Jeffrey Clark HORSÁK Michal

Year of publication 2019
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

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Keywords Cryptic species; Euconulus; Holarctic range; Micro-land snails; Phylogeny; Shell morphology
Description Naive use of molecular data may lead to ambiguous conclusions, especially within the context of “cryptic” species. Here, we integrated molecular and morphometric data to evaluate phylogenetic relationships in the widespread terrestrial micro-snail genus, Euconulus. We analyzed mitochondrial (16S + COII) and nuclear (ITS1 + ITS2) sequence across 94 populations from Europe, Asia and North America within the nominate species E. alderi, E. fulvus and E. polygyratus, and used the southeastern USA E. chersinus, E. dentatus, and E. trochulus as comparative outgroups. Phylogeny was reconstructed using four different reconstruction methods to identify robust, well-supported topological features. We then performed discriminant analysis on shell measurements between these genetically-identified species-level clades. These analyses provided evidence for a biologically valid North American “cryptic” species within E. alderi. However, while highly supported polyphyletic structure was also observed within E. fulvus, disagreement in placement of individuals between mtDNA and nDNA clades, lack of morphological differences, and presence of potential hybrids imply that these lineages do not rise to the threshold as biologically valid cryptic species, and rather appear to simply represent a complex of geographically structured populations within a single species. These results caution that entering into a cryptic species hypothesis should not be undertaken lightly, and should be optimally supported along multiple lines of evidence. Generally, post-hoc analyses of macro-scale features should be conducted to attempt identification of previously ignored diagnostic traits. If such traits cannot be found, i.e. in the case of potentially “fully cryptic” species, additional criteria should be met to propound a cryptic species hypothesis, including the agreement in tree topology among both mtDNA and nDNA, and little (or no) evidence of hybridization based on a critical analysis of sequence chromatograms. Even when the above conditions are satisfied, it only implies that the cryptic species hypothesis is plausible, but should optimally be subjected to further careful examination.
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