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Cryptic speciation along a bathymetric gradient

Glazier, Amanda E., Etter, Ron J.
Biological journal of the Linnean Society 2014 v.113 no.4 pp. 897-913
calmodulin, cytochrome-c oxidase, ecosystems, fauna, gene flow, genetic variation, haplotypes, introns, loci, new species, phylogeny
The deep ocean supports a highly diverse and mostly endemic fauna, yet little is known about how or where new species form in this remote ecosystem. How speciation occurs is especially intriguing in the deep sea because few obvious barriers exist that would disrupt gene flow. Geographic and bathymetric patterns of genetic variation can provide key insights into how and where new species form. We quantified the population genetic structure of a protobranch bivalve, Neilonella salicensis, along a depth gradient (2200–3800 m) in the western North Atlantic using both nuclear (28S and calmodulin intron) and mitochondrial (cytochrome c oxidase subunit I) loci. A sharp genetic break occurred for each locus between populations above 2800 m and below 3200 m, defining two distinct clades with no nuclear or mitochondrial haplotypes shared between depth regimes. Bayesian phylogenetic analyses provided strong support for two clades, separated by depth, within N. salicensis. Although no morphological divergence was apparent, we suggest that the depth‐related population genetic and phylogenetic divergence is indicative of a cryptic species. The frequent occurrence of various stages of divergence associated with species formation along bathymetric gradients suggests that depth, and the environmental gradients that attend changes in depth, probably play a fundamental role in the diversification of marine organisms, especially in deep water. © 2014 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2014, 113, 897–913.