Comparative phylogeography and species boundaries in Echinolittorina snails in the central Indo-West Pacific


*David Reid, Department of Zoology, Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD, UK.


Aim  This study aimed to test monophyly and geographical boundaries in five marine intertidal snail species from the central Indo-West Pacific. We tested the prediction that phylogenetic breaks between the Indian and Pacific Ocean basins should be more pronounced in continental than oceanic settings, and sought common geographical patterns of interspecific boundaries and intraspecific phylogenetic breaks in the region.

Location  The tropical seas of the Indo-West Pacific.

Methods  We sequenced over 1200 bp of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit I gene (COI) from 18–92 individuals sampled from throughout the ranges of each of five species of Echinolittorina (Littorinidae): three members of the Echinolittorina trochoides species complex; Echinolittorina reticulata; and Echinolittorina vidua, together with sister species, in order to test species boundaries. In addition, 630 bp of the nuclear 28S rRNA gene were sequenced from E. reticulata and its sister Echinolittorina millegrana. Phylogenetic structure was assessed using neighbour-joining and parsimony analyses.

Results  COI data confirmed species boundaries and geographical distributions for all species except the pair E. reticulata and E. millegrana, which were nevertheless reciprocally monophyletic for 28S rRNA. The species from ecologically ‘continental’ habitats (E. trochoides A and E. vidua, but not E. trochoides B) mostly showed strong interoceanic breaks (with age estimates 0.58–4.4 Ma), while the ecologically ‘oceanic’E. trochoides D and E. reticulata did not. The sister species E. trochoides A and B occupy the shores of the continental shelves of Southeast Asia and Australasia respectively; between them lies the oceanic ‘eastern Indonesian corridor’ occupied by E. trochoides D and E. reticulata. The widespread continental species E. vidua showed a complex pattern of deep division into six haplotype clades with apparently parapatric distributions.

Main conclusions  Our results show that ecological differences (in this case continental vs. oceanic habitat) influence both intraspecific phylogenetic structure and interspecific boundaries in these snails of intertidal rocky shores. Two of the three species restricted to continental shelves show phylogenetic breaks between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, consistent with vicariant separation during Plio-Pleistocene low sea levels. The two oceanic species do not show breaks, suggesting that they maintained interoceanic connections through the eastern Indonesian corridor. The geographical location of the interspecific boundary between continental E. trochoides A and oceanic E. trochoides D mirrors intraspecific breaks reported in other species. The sister relationship of E. trochoides A and B in Asia and Australasia, respectively, is an example of a ‘marine Wallace's line’ distribution, and we suggest that it is the result of separation of two continental species by a barrier of unsuitable oceanic habitat.