Phylogeography of Ponto-Caspian crustaceans: a benthic–planktonic comparison


Melania A. Cristescu. E-mail:


The Black, Azov, Caspian and Aral Seas, remnants of the intracontinental Paratethys basin, are home to a spectacular diversity of crustaceans. This study examines the past history of the Ponto-Caspian fauna through comparative phylogeographical studies on both benthic and planktonic taxa, based on an examination of nucleotide diversity in the mitochondrial, cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (COI) gene. The COI data reveal a striking example of phylogeographical concordance. All species analysed, three amphipods and three cladocerans, are characterized by two monophyletic clades corresponding to the Black and Caspian regions. However, this phylogeographical partition is, on average, four times deeper for the benthic amphipods than for the planktonic cladocerans. Based on standard molecular clocks, the Black and Caspian lineages of benthic crustaceans diverged at varied intervals from 1 to 8 million years ago. By contrast, planktonic lineages are more recent with their divergence occurring in the last million years. Levels of intraspecific polymorphisms are variable and generally lower in planktonic than benthic taxa. The mechanisms responsible for the high diversity of crustaceans in the Ponto-Caspian region are discussed on the basis of these results.