The phylogeny and population history of Meladema diving beetles (Coleoptera, Dytiscidae) were examined using mitochondrial DNA sequence from 16S ribosomal RNA and cytochrome oxidase I genes in 51 individuals from 22 populations of the three extant species (M. imbricata endemic to the western Canary Islands, M. lanio endemic to Madeira and M. coriacea widespread in the Western Mediterranean and on the western Canaries), using a combination of phylogenetic and nested clade analyses. Four main lineages are observed within Meladema, representing the three recognized species plus Corsican populations of M. coriacea. Phylogenetic analyses demonstrate the sister relationship of the two Atlantic Island taxa, and suggest the possible paraphyly of M. coriacea. A molecular clock approach reveals that speciation within the genus occurred in the Early Pleistocene, indicating that the Atlantic Island endemics are not Tertiary relict taxa as had been proposed previously. Our results point to past population bottlenecks in all four lineages, with recent (Late-Middle Pleistocene) range expansion in non-Corsican M. coriacea and M. imbricata. Within the Canary Islands, M. imbricata seems to have independently colonized La Gomera and La Palma from Tenerife (although a colonization of La Palma from La Gomera cannot be discarded), and M. coriacea has independently colonized Tenerife and Gran Canaria from separate mainland lineages. In the Mediterranean basin this species apparently colonized Corsica on a single occasion, relatively early in its evolutionary history (Early Pleistocene), and has colonized Mallorca recently on multiple occasions. On the only island where M. coriacea and M. imbricata are broadly sympatric (Tenerife), we report evidence of bidirectional hybridization between the two species.
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