Low genetic but high morphological variation over more than 1000 km coastline refutes omnipresence of cryptic diversity in marine nematodes

Daniel Apolonio Silva de Oliveira, Wilfrida Decraemer, Tom Moens, Giovanni Amadeu Paiva dos Santos, Sofie Derycke

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    Background: The resilience of ecosystems to negative impacts is generally higher when high gene flow, species diversity and genetic diversity are present. Population genetic studies are suitable to investigate genetic diversity and estimate gene flow between populations. Seaweed beds form a dynamic shallow water ecosystem influenced by climate change and human exploitation, as such, seaweed beds are a particularly powerful model to investigate ecosystem resilience in coastal areas. We studied the population genetic structure of the new nematode species Paracanthonchus gynodiporata associated with seaweeds in northeastern Brazil. Nematodes are generally believed to have a limited dispersal capacity because of the lack of planktonic larvae. Yet, they can drift on seaweeds, and water currents might be a natural barrier for their dispersal. Populations of P. gynodiporata were sampled over more than 1000 km coastline in regions across major oceanic currents with and without historical exploitation of seaweed. Results: P. gynodiporata is described in an integrative way using mitochondrial and nuclear sequences and morphological data. The 3D model of the head region shows for the first time a detailed view of the ventrosublateral teeth, a character often overlooked in older taxonomic studies of the genus. A total of 17 mitochondrial COI haplotypes were found with one haplotype representing 63 to 83% of the frequencies in each population. AMOVA showed overall little population genetic structure (F-ST = 0.05204), and no genetic subdivision between the populations under the influence of the two different water currents were found. Effects of historical seaweed exploitation on population genetic diversity were not detected. In contrast, significant differences between populations were found in morphometric characters. This discrepancy in genetic and morphological differentiation between populations across 1000 km of coastline is surprising in view of the frequently observed presence of several cryptic species at small geographical scale in other macroalgal associated nematodes. Conclusions: Our results show that cryptic species are not omnipresent in marine nematode species, suggesting that nematodes associated with seaweeds have been able to disperse over large distances across well-known biogeographic barriers.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalBMC Evolutionary Biology
    Publication statusPublished - 7-Mar-2017

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