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Long-term stasis and short-term divergence in the phenotypes of microsnails on oceanic islands


Correspondence: Shinichiro Wada, Fax: +81-22-7957813; E-mail:


Phenotypic divergence is often unrelated to genotypic divergence. An extreme example is rapid phenotypic differentiation despite genetic similarity. Another extreme is morphological stasis despite substantial genetic divergence. These opposite patterns have been viewed as reflecting opposite properties of the lineages. In this study, phenotypic radiation accompanied by both rapid divergence and long-term conservatism is documented in the inferred molecular phylogeny of the micro land snails Cavernacmella (Assimineidae) on the Ogasawara Islands. The populations of Cavernacmella on the Sekimon limestone outcrop of Hahajima Island showed marked divergence in shell morphology. Within this area, one lineage diversified into types with elongated turret shells, conical shells and flat disc-like shells without substantial genetic differentiation. Additionally, a co-occurring species with these types developed a much larger shell size. Moreover, a lineage adapted to live inside caves in this area. In contrast, populations in the other areas exhibited no morphological differences despite high genetic divergence among populations. Accordingly, the phenotypic evolution of Cavernacmella in Ogasawara is characterized by a pattern of long-term stasis and periodic bursts of change. This pattern suggests that even lineages with phenotypic conservatism could shift to an alternative state allowing rapid phenotypic divergence.

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