Deep genetic divergences in Aoraki denticulata (Arachnida, Opiliones, Cyphophthalmi): a widespread ‘mite harvestman’ defies DNA taxonomy

Authors

  • SARAH L. BOYER,

    1. Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
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  • JESSICA M. BAKER,

    1. Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
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  • GONZALO GIRIBET

    1. Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
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Dr Sarah L. Boyer, Department of Biology, Macalester College, 1600 Grand Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55105, USA. Fax: 651-696-6443; E-mail: boyer@macalester.edu

Abstract

Aoraki denticulata (Arachnida, Opiliones, Cyphophthalmi, Pettalidae), a widespread ‘mite harvestman’ endemic to the South Island of New Zealand, is found in leaf littler habitats throughout Nelson and Marlborough, and as far south as Arthur's Pass. We investigated the phylogeography and demographic history of A. denticulata in the first genetic population-level study within Opiliones. A total of 119 individuals from 17 localities were sequenced for 785 bp of the gene cytochrome c oxidase subunit I; 102 of these individuals were from the Aoraki subspecies A. denticulata denticulata and the remaining 17 were from the subspecies A. denticulata major. An extraordinarily high degree of genetic diversity was discovered in A. denticulata denticulata, with average uncorrected p-distances between populations as high as 19.2%. amova, average numbers of pairwise differences, and pairwise FST values demonstrated a significant amount of genetic diversity both within and between populations of this subspecies. Phylogenetic analysis of the data set revealed many well-supported groups within A. denticulata denticulata, generally corresponding to clusters of specimens from single populations with short internal branches, but separated by long branches from individuals from other populations. No haplotypes were shared between populations of the widespread small subspecies, A. denticulata denticulata. These results indicate a subspecies within which very little genetic exchange occurs between populations, a result consistent with the idea that Cyphophthalmi are poor dispersers. The highly structured populations and deep genetic divergences observed in A. denticulata denticulata may indicate the presence of cryptic species. However, we find a highly conserved morphology across sampling localities and large genetic divergences within populations from certain localities, equivalent to those typically found between populations from different localities. Past geological events may have contributed to the deep genetic divergences observed between sampling localities; additionally, the high divergence within populations of A. denticulata denticulata suggests that the rate of COI evolution may be accelerated in this taxon. In contrast, the larger subspecies A. denticulata major shows much less differentiation between and within sampling localities, suggesting that it may disperse more easily than its smaller counterpart. The fact that the remarkable genetic divergences within populations of A. denticulata denticulata from certain localities are equivalent to divergences between localities poses a challenge to the rapidly spreading practice of DNA taxonomy

Ancillary