The Balkan Peninsula is one of three major European refugial areas. It has high biodiversity and endemism, but data on the age and origin of its fauna, especially endemics, are limited. Mitochondrial sequence data (COI and 16S genes) were used to study the population structure and phylogeography of the caddisfly Drusus croaticus and the phylogeny and divergence of seven other Drusus species, mostly range-restricted endemics of the Dinaric region of the Balkan Peninsula. The divergence of D. croaticus populations in Croatia and allopatric Drusus species in Bosnia dated to the Pleistocene, showing the importance of this time period for the origin and diversification of Balkan endemic taxa. The divergence of more distantly related species dated to the Late Miocene/Early Pliocene. Population genetic and phylogeographic analysis of 115 individuals from 11 populations of D. croaticus revealed a high level of genetic differentiation and absence of gene flow between populations separated by more than 10 km. The existence of allopatrically fragmented lineages in D. croaticus and the endemic Bosnian species is most likely the result of long-term isolation in multiple microrefugia, probably due to the specific habitat requirements and life-history traits of Drusinae coupled with the topographic complexity and historical changes in geomorphology of the region. Overall, these findings shed light on the processes generating the high genetic complexity of this refugial region that parallels the ‘refugia within refugia’ pattern widely reported from the Iberian refugium.
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