Previous studies of Partula land snails from the Society Islands, French Polynesia, have shown that populations within species are highly differentiated in terms of their morphology, behaviour, ecology and molecular genetic variation. Despite this level of variability, differences between species are sometimes small, possibly reflecting the fact that reproductive isolation is not always complete and there exists the opportunity for genetic exchange between taxa through hybridization. The present study uses sequence data from a mitochondrial gene to further investigate genetic variation in Society Island Partula. Most populations are found in this study to be highly differentiated, but within individual species there seems to be no simple relationship either between genetic distance and geographical proximity, or between variation in mitochondria and that in allozymes or morphological characteristics. Among species there appears to be no simple correlation between degrees of reproductive isolation and genetic relatedness according to mitochondrial DNA. The results suggest that past events as well as ongoing drift and selection may have been important in affecting patterns of variation. Similarities among species at specific localities suggest that there must have been some genetic exchange in the past, although this may not necessarily reflect ongoing rates of hybridization. The discrepancy between results for different markers probably reflects the differential effects of drift and selection on mitochondrial and nuclear genes.
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