Pan-European phylogeography of the aquatic snail Theodoxus fluviatilis (Gastropoda: Neritidae)


Paul M. E. Bunje, Present address: Lehrstuhl für Evolutionsbiologie, Department of Biology, University of Konstanz, 78457 Konstanz, Germany. Fax: +49 (0)7531-883018; E-mail:


Investigating the geographical distribution of genetic lineages within species is critical to our understanding of how species evolve. As many species inhabit large and complex ranges, it is important that phylogeographical research take into account the entire range of widespread species to clarify how myriad extrinsic variables have affected their evolutionary history. Using phylogenetic, nested clade, and mismatch distribution analyses on a portion of the mitochondrial COI gene, I demonstrate that the wide-ranging freshwater snail Theodoxus fluviatilis possesses in parallel many of the phylogeographical patterns seen in less widespread freshwater species of Europe. Fragmentary forces play a major part in structuring the range of this species, with 12 of 14 geographically structured nested clades displaying a distribution consistent with fragmentation or restricted dispersal. Certain regions of southern Europe harbour the majority of genetic diversity (total haplotype diversity, H = 0.87), particularly Italy (H = 0.87) and areas surrounding the Black Sea (H = 0.81). Post-Pleistocene range expansion is pronounced, with the majority of northern European populations (95% of sample sites) having arisen from northern Italian individuals that initially colonized northern Germany. Additionally, two highly divergent haplotype lineages present in northern Germany imply that there were at least two postglacial recolonization routes. Estuaries may also provide a means of dispersal given that no genetic differentiation was found between estuarine populations and neighbouring freshwater populations. Taken together, these data reveal a species with a complex genetic history resulting from the fragmentary effects of European geology as well as continuous and discrete range expansion related to their aquatic biology.