• biogeography;
  • insect distribution;
  • Mediterranean;
  • mitochondrial cox2;
  • phylogeography;
  • volcanism

The darkling beetle Pimelia rugulosa rugulosa Germar, 1824 was selected to investigate the process of colonization in a volcanic archipelago and the role of volcanism in determining spatial patterns of genetic variability. Analyses were conducted in the Aeolian Islands, located in the central Mediterranean directly off the Sicilian coast. Genetic variability and geographic structure were studied in individuals from each island of the archipelago based on sequences of the cytochrome c oxidase subunit 2 mitochondrial gene; a network approach was employed to identify haplotype lineages. A strong genetic structure, with no haplotype sharing among islands, was observed. Six separate lineages were identified that independently colonized different islands of the archipelago from the mainland and differentiated locally to form small haplogroups. Variability of observed haplogroups is correlated with island age and a positive correlation between tenebrionid diversity and mitotype diversity is reported. Some, yet undescribed, catastrophic event is hypothesized to explain the depletion of a substantial part of the genetic, as well as biological diversity in the island of Filicudi. © 2011 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2011, 104, 29–37.