Among shallow water sea urchin genera, Arbacia is the only genus that contains species found in both high and low latitudes. In order to determine the geographical origin of the genus and its history of speciation events, we constructed phylogenies based on cytochrome oxidase I and sperm bindin from all its species. Both the mitochondrial and the nuclear gene genealogies show that Arbacia originated in the temperate zone of the Southern Hemisphere and gave rise to three species in the eastern Pacific, which were then isolated from the Atlantic by the Isthmus of Panama. The mid-Atlantic barrier separated two additional species. The bindin data suggest that selection against hybridization is not important in the evolution of this molecule in this genus. Metz et al. in a previous publication found no evidence of selection on bindin of Arbacia and suggested that this might be due to allopatry between species, which obviated the need for species recognition. This suggestion formed the basis of the conclusion, widely spread in the literature, that the source of selection on sea urchin bindin (where it does occur) was reinforcement. However, the range of Arbacia spatuligera overlaps with that of two other species of Arbacia, and our data show that it is hybridizing with one of them. We found that even in the species that overlap geographically, there are no deviations from selective neutrality in the evolution of bindin.
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