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Keywords:

  • allozymes;
  • Arion fuscus;
  • Europe;
  • Gastropoda;
  • glacial refugia;
  • mtDNA;
  • phylogeography

Abstract

Intraspecific phylogeographical patterns largely depend on the life history traits of a species. Especially species with a high degree of cold tolerance, limited requirements towards habitat preferences, and relatively low active dispersal capacities may have responded in a different way to the Pleistocene climatological fluctuations than the majority of taxa studied so far. To evaluate this possibility, we studied Arion fuscus (Müller, 1774), a common and widespread European terrestrial slug, from 88 locations (N = 964). Sequence variation was assessed for fragments of the mitochondrial 16S rDNA and COI genes by means of single-strand conformation polymorphisms (SSCP) and subsequent DNA sequencing. Additionally, eight allozyme loci were scored in 843 individuals. Phylogenetic analysis revealed the presence of two major evolutionary lineages, one in the Balkan region and another in the Alps and the rest of Europe. The sequence divergence between the two lineages was limited (3.3%), but gene flow between the regions was absent, suggesting that the two regions have been isolated since the late Pliocene or early Pleistocene. Allozyme differentiation among geographical regions and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) lineages was low. The geographical patterns observed in our data showed that (i) haplotype and nucleotide diversities are very low in northern Europe, suggesting that single haplotypes rapidly colonized large areas; (ii) recently expanded haplotype clades have restricted distribution ranges, suggesting that current gene flow is low; and (iii) genetic diversity in the Alps is much higher than in other regions and estimated past gene flow from the Eastern Alps to other regions was high, suggesting that this was a refugial zone during the Pleistocene. This full-range phylogeography suggests the existence of an alternative refugial zone, situated north of the refugial areas currently recognized in most other taxa.