Molecular evidence for broad-scale distributions in bdelloid rotifers: everything is not everywhere but most things are very widespread


Diego Fontaneto, Fax: +44(0)20 7594 2339; E-mail:


The Baas-Becking's hypothesis, also known by the term ‘everything is everywhere’ (EisE), states that microscopic organisms such as bacteria and protists are globally distributed and do not show biogeographical patterns, due to their high dispersal potential. We tested the prediction of the EisE hypothesis on bdelloid rotifers, microscopic animals similar to protists in size and ecology that present one of the best cases among animals for the plausibility of global dispersal. Geographical range sizes and patterns of isolation by distance were estimated for global collections of the genera Adineta and Rotaria, using different taxonomic units: (i) traditional species based on morphology, (ii) the most inclusive monophyletic lineages from a cytochrome oxidase I phylogeny comprising just a single traditional species, and (iii) genetic clusters indicative of independently evolving lineages. Although there are cases of truly cosmopolitan distribution, even at the most finely resolved taxonomic level, most genetic clusters are distributed at continental or lower scales. Nevertheless, although ‘everything is not everywhere’, bdelloid rotifers do display broad distributions typical of those of other microscopic organisms. Broad dispersal and large population sizes might be factors lessening the evolutionary cost of long-term abstinence from sexual reproduction in this famous group of obligate parthenogens.