How cold-adapted flightless flies dispersed over the northern hemisphere: phylogeny and biogeography of the snow fly genus Chionea Dalman (Diptera: Limoniidae)



A phylogeny of the 37 known species and subspecies of the micropterous snow fly genus Chionea Dalman is presented using adult morphological characters. The genus contains two major clades: a strictly Palaearctic clade, and a combined Nearctic-Palaearctic clade with representatives in the Nearctic and Western Palaearctic regions. As there is little congruence between the recovered phylogeny of Chionea and the currently used subgeneric division in Chionea s.s. and Sphaeconophilus Becker, we propose to abandon the use of subgeneric taxa in Chionea. A strictly morphological analysis appears to be insufficient to fully resolve the phylogeny of the genus at the species level, and future molecular work should provide additional evidence for the establishment of relationships among the members of Chionea. The large-scale historical biogeography of Chionea was analysed using dispersal-vicariance analysis. The initial distribution area of the genus probably extended in the Eastern Palaearctic, and the Nearctic and the origin of Chionea could be dated in the Late Cretaceous. The various dispersal and vicariance events that led to the major speciation events in the genus are set against major paleogeographic developments. The ancestor of the Western Palaearctic group in the second major clade originated from the Nearctic. The presence of the cold-adapted Chionea in currently temperate to warm climatic zones in the southern parts of its distribution was analysed using ecological niche modelling. It appears that prolonged periods of climate cooling, as occurred during the Last Glacial Maximum, enabled Chionea to cover large parts of central and southern Europe and reach the southern distribution areas where the genus is present today. A similar biogeographic pattern was less evident in the Nearctic region.