We used 276 cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI, 645 bp) and a subset of 84 16S large ribosomal subunit (16S, 451 bp) sequences to evaluate geographic patterns of genetic variation in 24 populations of the endemic Hawaiian land snail Succinea caduca spanning its range on six islands. Haplotype networks, gene tree topologies, pairwise molecular divergence and FST matrices suggest substantial geographic genetic structuring and complex dispersal patterns. Low nucleotide diversity and low pairwise molecular divergence values within populations coupled with higher between population values suggest multiple founder events. High overall haplotype diversity suggests diversification involving rare interpopulation dispersal, fragmentation by historical lava flows and variation in habitat structure. Within-island rather than between-island population comparisons accounted for the majority of molecular variance. Although 98% of 153 COI haplotypes were private by population, a Mantel test showed no evidence for isolation by distance. Mismatch distributions and population partitioning patterns suggest that genetic fragmentation has been driven by punctuated, passive dispersal of groups of closely related haplotypes that subsequently expanded and persisted in isolation for long periods (average > 2 million years ago), and that Pleistocene island connections may have been important in enhancing gene flow. Historical availability of mesic coastal habitat, together with effective dispersal may explain the long-term persistence and unusual multi-island distribution of this species, contrasting with the single-island endemism of much of the Hawaiian biota.
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