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Genetic and morphological studies of species status for poorly known endemic Trochulus phorochaetius (Bourguignat, 1864) (Gastropoda: Pulmonata: Hygromiidae), and its comparison with closely related taxa


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The taxonomic status of Trochulus phorochaetius and its phylogenetic relationships to Trochulus plebeius and Trochulus hispidus were evaluated based on molecular, morphological, and genital anatomy data. The canonical discriminant analysis (CDA) of shell morphology allowed the clear differentiation between these three nominal species, whereas the genitalia revealed their high similarity. Analyses of cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) sequences were not always congruent with the differentiation between these three species by shell characters. None of them formed a monophyletic group covering all its sequences. Instead, many sequences obtained from individuals classified to the same morphospecies, and/or usually collected from the same region or country, created highly supported separate clades and delimited clusters. Three distinct clades containing sequences of two morphospecies originating from the same country were identified in molecular phylogenetic and species delimitation studies: (1) T. plebeius + T. hispidus from Great Britain; (2) T. plebeius + T. hispidus from Poland; and (3) T. phorochaetius + T. hispidus from France. In the latter case some of the sequences were even identical. Their genetic similarity could indicate the ability to hybridize, which may be evidenced by the lack of major differences in their reproductive system. The assignment of distinctive morphospecies, and thus existing taxonomic names, to genetically defined evolutionary lineages is premature and arbitrary to some extent at this stage. © 2013 The Linnean Society of London