Aim Our aim was to understand the processes that have shaped the present-day distribution of the freshwater limpet Ancylus fluviatilis sensu stricto in order to predict the consequences of global climate change for the geographical range of this species.
Location North-western Europe.
Methods We sampled populations of A. fluviatilis sensu stricto over the entire range of the species (north-western Europe) and sequenced 16S ribosomal RNA (16S) and cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI) mitochondrial fragments to perform phylogenetic and phylogeographical analyses. Climatic niche modelling allowed us to infer the climatic preferences of the species. A principal components analysis identified the most important climatic factors explaining the actual range of A. fluviatilis. We also identified which climatic factor was the most limiting at range margins, and predicted the species’ geographical range under a climate change scenario [Community Climate Model 3 (CCM3)].
Results By means of the phylogeographical analysis, we infer that A. fluviatilis sensu stricto occupied northern refuges during the Last Glacial Maximum. We show that the climatic preferences of Baltic populations are significantly different from those of Central European populations. The projection of the occupied area under the CCM3 climate model predicts a moderate poleward shift of the northern range limits, but a dramatic loss of areas currently occupied, for instance in northern Germany and in southern Great Britain.
Main conclusions The post-glacial range dynamics of A. fluviatilis are not governed by niche conservatism. Therefore, we must be cautious about bioclimatic model predictions: the expected impact of climate change could be tempered by the adaptive potential this species has already shown in its evolutionary history. Thus, modelling approaches should rather be seen as conservative forecasts of altered species ranges as long as the adaptive potential of the organisms in question cannot be predicted.