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Keywords:

  • biogeography;
  • cytochrome oxidase I;
  • molecular clock;
  • parthenogenesis

Abstract

Theories on the evolution and maintenance of sex are challenged by the existence of ancient parthenogenetic lineages such as bdelloid rotifers and darwinulid ostracods. It has been proposed that several parthenogenetic and speciose taxa of oribatid mites (Acari) also have an ancient origin. We used nucleotide sequences of the mitochondrial gene cytochrome oxidase I to estimate the age of the parthenogenetic oribatid mite species Platynothrus peltifer. Sixty-five specimens from 16 sites in North America, Europe and Asia were analysed. Seven major clades were identified. Within-clade genetic distances were below 2 % similar to the total intraspecific genetic diversity of most organisms. However, distances between clades averaged 56 % with a maximum of 125 %. We conclude that P. peltifer, as it is currently conceived, has existed for perhaps 100 million years, has an extant distribution that results from continental drift rather than dispersal and was subject to several cryptic speciations.