Phylogenetic analysis of cryptic speciation in the polychaete Pygospio elegans


  • Funded by a grant from the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation and the Centre of Excellence in Evolutionary Research (University of Jyväskylä). K. E. K. acknowledges fruitful discussions with members of the Marie Curie Initial Training Network Speciation funded by the European Union.

  • Ecology and Evolution 2012; 2(5): 994–1007

Jenni E. Kesäniemi, Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyväskylä, P.O. Box 35, FI-40014, Finland. Tel: +358 40 805 3872; E-mail:


Development in marine invertebrate species can take place through a variety of modes and larval forms, but within a species, developmental mode is typically uniform. Poecilogony refers to the presence of more than one mode of development within a single species. True poecilogony is rare, however, and in some cases, apparent poecilogony is actually the result of variation in development mode among recently diverged cryptic species. We used a phylogenetic approach to examine whether poecilogony in the marine polychaete worm, Pygospio elegans, is the result of cryptic speciation. Populations of worms identified as P. elegans express a variety of developmental modes including planktonic, brooded, and intermediate larvae; these modes are found both within and among populations. We examined sequence variation among partial mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I sequences obtained for 279 individual worms sampled across broad geographic and environmental scales. Despite a large number of unique haplotypes (121 haplotypes from 279 individuals), sequence divergence among European samples was low (1.7%) with most of the sequence variation observed within populations, relative to the variation among regions. More importantly, we observed common haplotypes that were widespread among the populations we sampled, and the two most common haplotypes were shared between populations differing in developmental mode. Thus, our results support an earlier conclusion of poecilogony in P elegans. In addition, predominantly planktonic populations had a larger number of population-specific low-frequency haplotypes. This finding is largely consistent with interspecies comparisons showing high diversity for species with planktonic developmental modes in contrast to low diversity in species with brooded developmental modes.