Molecular phylogeny of the Greek populations of the genus Ligidium (Isopoda, Oniscidea) using three mtDNA gene segments
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The phylogeny of Greek populations of the terrestrial isopod genus Ligidium is reconstructed based on three mtDNA gene segments: 12S rRNA, 16S rRNA and COI. Two widely distributed European species, as well as three outgroups belonging to different isopod genera, were also included in the analyses. The samples used represent almost all Ligidium species known to occur in Greece, as well as several populations of unknown specific status plus some new records. Phylogenetic analyses of the combined data set were performed using Bayesian inference and maximum parsimony. The two main sister clades with good support indicate the sympatric differentiation of two lineages in southern continental Greece (Peloponnisos), where Ligidium populations exhibit a mosaic distribution of sibling species. The insular populations of the Aegean Islands show increased genetic divergence and form separate clades. The presence of a third lineage of Asiatic origin is strongly suggested by both the molecular phylogeny and morphology. The only presumably valid diagnostic morphological character exhibits only partial correspondence to well supported clades of the molecular phylogeny. Genetic differentiation between populations is very high, a fact that can be attributed to the strict ecological specialization of these animals that leads to increased levels of isolation even between populations that are in close proximity. As a consequence, Greek Ligidium populations, especially those present on islands, are unique genetic pools and extremely vulnerable to extinction. © 2006 The Authors.