posted on 23.11.2019, 00:13by Michael R Raupach, Marina Malyutina, Angelika Brandt, Johann-Wolfgang Wägele
Based on our current knowledge about population genetics, phylogeography and speciation, we begin to understand that the deep sea harbours more species than suggested in the past. Deep-sea soft-sediment environment in particular hosts a diverse and highly endemic invertebrate fauna. Very little is known about evolutionary processes that generate this remarkable species richness, the genetic variability and spatial distribution of deep-sea animals. In this study, phylogeographic patterns and the genetic variability among eight populations of the abundant and widespread deep-sea isopod morphospecies Betamorpha fusiformis [Barnard, K.H., 1920. Contributions to the crustacean fauna of South Africa. 6. Further additions to the list of marine isopods. Annals of the South African Museum 17, 319-438] were examined. A fragment of the mitochondrial 16S rRNA gene of 50 specimens and the complete nuclear 18S rRNA gene of 7 specimens were sequenced. The molecular data reveal high levels of genetic variability of both genes between populations, giving evidence for distinct monophyletic groups of haplotypes with average p-distances ranging from 0.0470 to 0.1440 (d-distances: 0.0592-0.2850) of the 16S rDNA, and 18S rDNA p-distances ranging between 0.0032 and 0.0174 (d-distances: 0.0033-0.0195). Intermediate values are absent. Our results show that widely distributed benthic deep-sea organisms of a homogeneous phenotype can be differentiated into genetically highly divergent populations. Sympatry of some genotypes indicates the existence of cryptic speciation. Flocks of closely related but genetically distinct species probably exist in other widespread benthic deep-sea asellotes and other Peracarida. Based on existing data we hypothesize that many widespread morphospecies are complexes of cryptic biological species (patchwork hypothesis).