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Replaying the tape: recurring biogeographical patterns in Cape Verde Conus after 12 million years


Regina L. Cunha, Fax: +351 289 800069; E-mail:


Isolated oceanic islands are excellent natural laboratories to test the relative role of historical contingency and determinism in evolutionary diversification. Endemics of the marine venomous snail Conus in the Cape Verde archipelago were originated from at least two independent colonizations of ‘small’ and ‘large’ shelled species separated by 12 million years. In this study, we have reconstructed phylogenetic relationships within large-shelled Conus (C. ateralbus, C. pseudonivifer, C. trochulus, and C. venulatus) based on mitochondrial cox1 and nad4 haplotype sequences. The reconstructed molecular phylogeny revealed three well-supported and relatively divergent clades (A, B, and C) that do not correspond to current species classification based on shell colour and banding patterns. Clade A grouped specimens assigned either to C. pseudonivifer or C. trochulus, clade B is composed of specimens assigned to C. venulatus, and clade C comprises specimens assigned either to C. venulatus or C. ateralbus. Geometric morphometric analyses found significant differences between the radular teeth shape of C. pseudonivifer/C. trochulus and C. venulatus/C. ateralbus. In clades A and B, northwestern Boavista and Maio specimens cluster together to the exclusion of eastern Boavista samples. In Sal, populations form a monophyletic island assemblage (clade C). The large-shelled Conus have remarkably replicated biogeographical patterns of diversification of small-shelled Conus. Similar selective forces (i.e. nonplanktonic lecithotrophy with limited larval dispersal and allopatric diversification) together with repeated instances of low sea level stands during glacial maxima that allowed connection between islands, have overcome the effect of historical contingency, and explain the observed recurring biogeographical patterns.

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