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Keywords:

  • freshwater gastropods;
  • Hydrobiidae;
  • molecular clock;
  • mtDNA;
  • phylogeography

Many elements of the flora and fauna of New Zealand’s South Island show disjunct distributions with conspecific populations or closely-related species that occur in the north-west and south separated by a central gap. Three events have been implicated to account for this pattern: Pleistocene glaciations, Pliocene mountain building, or displacement along the Alpine fault, the border of the Pacific and Australian plates stretching diagonally across the South Island from south-west to north-east that formed during the Miocene. Disjunct distributions of species level taxa are probably too young to be due to Alpine fault vicariance. It has therefore been suggested that the biogeographical impact of the Alpine fault, if any, should be apparent on deeper phylogenetic levels. We tested this hypothesis by reconstructing the phylogenetic relationships of the hydrobiid gastropods of New Zealand based on mitochondrial DNA fragments of cytochrome oxidase subunit I (CO I) and 16S rDNA. The creno- and stygobiont species of this family are typically poor dispersers. Therefore, ancient patterns of distribution may be conserved. The phylogenetic reconstructions were in accordance with the Alpine fault hypothesis uniting genera occurring on either side of the fault. Divergence estimates based on a molecular clock of CO I indicated splits predating the Pliocene uplift of the Alps. © 2007 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2007, 91, 361–374.