A tale of two flatties: different responses of two terrestrial flatworms to past environmental climatic fluctuations at Tallaganda in montane southeastern Australia


Paul Sunnucks, Fax: Number: 61 3 99055613; E-mail: paul.sunnucks@sci.monash.edu.au


Comparative phylogeographic studies of animals with low mobility and/or high habitat specificity remain rare, yet such organisms may hold fine-grained palaeoecological signal. Comparisons of multiple, codistributed species can elucidate major historical events. As part of a multitaxon programme, mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I (COI) variation was analysed in two species of terrestrial flatworm, Artioposthia lucasi and Caenoplana coerulea. We applied coalescent demographic estimators and nested clade analysis to examine responses to past, landscape-scale, cooling-drying events in a model system of montane forest (Tallaganda). Correspondence of haplotype groups in both species to previously proposed microbiogeographic regions indicates at least four refuges from cool, dry conditions. The region predicted to hold the highest quality refuges (the Eastern Slopes Region), is indicated to have been a long-term refuge in both species, but so are several other regions. Coalescent analyses suggest that populations of A. lucasi are declining, while C. coerulea is expanding, although stronger population substructure in the former could yield similar patterns in the data. The differences in spatial and temporal genetic variation in the two species could be explained by differences in ecological attributes: A. lucasi is predicted to have lower dispersal ability but may be better able to withstand cold conditions. Thus, different contemporary population dynamics may reflect different responses to recent (Holocene) climate warming. The two species show highly congruent patterns of catchment-based local genetic endemism with one another and with previously studied slime-mould grazing Collembola.