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1.  Methodological framework for projecting the potential loss of intraspecific genetic diversity due to global climate change 
While research on the impact of global climate change (GCC) on ecosystems and species is flourishing, a fundamental component of biodiversity – molecular variation – has not yet received its due attention in such studies. Here we present a methodological framework for projecting the loss of intraspecific genetic diversity due to GCC.
The framework consists of multiple steps that combines 1) hierarchical genetic clustering methods to define comparable units of inference, 2) species accumulation curves (SAC) to infer sampling completeness, and 3) species distribution modelling (SDM) to project the genetic diversity loss under GCC. We suggest procedures for existing data sets as well as specifically designed studies. We illustrate the approach with two worked examples from a land snail (Trochulus villosus) and a caddisfly (Smicridea (S.) mucronata).
Sampling completeness was diagnosed on the third coarsest haplotype clade level for T. villosus and the second coarsest for S. mucronata. For both species, a substantial species range loss was projected under the chosen climate scenario. However, despite substantial differences in data set quality concerning spatial sampling and sampling depth, no loss of haplotype clades due to GCC was predicted for either species.
The suggested approach presents a feasible method to tap the rich resources of existing phylogeographic data sets and guide the design and analysis of studies explicitly designed to estimate the impact of GCC on a currently still neglected level of biodiversity.
PMCID: PMC3538604  PMID: 23176586
2.  Factors and processes shaping the population structure and distribution of genetic variation across the species range of the freshwater snail radix balthica (Pulmonata, Basommatophora) 
Factors and processes shaping the population structure and spatial distribution of genetic diversity across a species' distribution range are important in determining the range limits. We comprehensively analysed the influence of recurrent and historic factors and processes on the population genetic structure, mating system and the distribution of genetic variability of the pulmonate freshwater snail Radix balthica. This analysis was based on microsatellite variation and mitochondrial haplotypes using Generalised Linear Statistical Modelling in a Model Selection framework.
Populations of R. balthica were found throughout North-Western Europe with range margins marked either by dispersal barriers or the presence of other Radix taxa. Overall, the population structure was characterised by distance independent passive dispersal mainly along a Southwest-Northeast axis, the absence of isolation-by-distance together with rather isolated and genetically depauperated populations compared to the variation present in the entire species due to strong local drift. A recent, climate driven range expansion explained most of the variance in genetic variation, reducing at least temporarily the genetic variability in this area. Other factors such as geographic marginality and dispersal barriers play only a minor role.
To our knowledge, such a population structure has rarely been reported before. It might nevertheless be typical for passively dispersed, patchily distributed taxa (e.g. freshwater invertebrates). The strong local drift implied in such a structure is expected to erode genetic variation at both neutral and coding loci and thus probably diminish evolutionary potential. This study shows that the analysis of multiple factors is crucial for the inference of the processes shaping the distribution of genetic variation throughout species ranges.
PMCID: PMC3115865  PMID: 21599918
3.  When Indian crabs were not yet Asian - biogeographic evidence for Eocene proximity of India and Southeast Asia 
The faunal and floral relationship of northward-drifting India with its neighboring continents is of general biogeographic interest as an important driver of regional biodiversity. However, direct biogeographic connectivity of India and Southeast Asia during the Cenozoic remains largely unexplored. We investigate timing, direction and mechanisms of faunal exchange between India and Southeast Asia, based on a molecular phylogeny, molecular clock-derived time estimates and biogeographic reconstructions of the Asian freshwater crab family Gecarcinucidae.
Although the Gecarcinucidae are not an element of an ancient Gondwana fauna, their subfamily Gecarcinucinae, and probably also the Liotelphusinae, evolved on the Indian Subcontinent and subsequently dispersed to Southeast Asia. Estimated by a model testing approach, this dispersal event took place during the Middle Eocene, and thus before the final collision of India and the Tibet-part of Eurasia.
We postulate that the India and Southeast Asia were close enough for exchange of freshwater organisms during the Middle Eocene, before the final Indian-Eurasian collision. Our data support geological models that assume the Indian plate having tracked along Southeast Asia during its move northwards.
PMCID: PMC2949875  PMID: 20849594
4.  A species delimitation approach in the Trochulus sericeus/hispidus complex reveals two cryptic species within a sharp contact zone 
Mitochondrial DNA sequencing increasingly results in the recognition of genetically divergent, but morphologically cryptic lineages. Species delimitation approaches that rely on multiple lines of evidence in areas of co-occurrence are particularly powerful to infer their specific status. We investigated the species boundaries of two cryptic lineages of the land snail genus Trochulus in a contact zone, using mitochondrial and nuclear DNA marker as well as shell morphometrics.
Both mitochondrial lineages have a distinct geographical distribution with a small zone of co-occurrence. In the same area, we detected two nuclear genotype clusters, each being highly significantly associated to one mitochondrial lineage. This association however had exceptions: a small number of individuals in the contact zone showed intermediate genotypes (4%) or cytonuclear disequilibrium (12%). Both mitochondrial lineage and nuclear cluster were statistically significant predictors for the shell shape indicating morphological divergence. Nevertheless, the lineage morphospaces largely overlapped (low posterior classification success rate of 69% and 78%, respectively): the two lineages are truly cryptic.
The integrative approach using multiple lines of evidence supported the hypothesis that the investigated Trochulus lineages are reproductively isolated species. In the small contact area, however, the lineages hybridise to a limited extent. This detection of a hybrid zone adds an instance to the rare reported cases of hybridisation in land snails.
PMCID: PMC2724411  PMID: 19622149
5.  Cryptic animal species are homogeneously distributed among taxa and biogeographical regions 
Cryptic species are two or more distinct but morphologically similar species that were classified as a single species. During the past two decades we observed an exponential growth of publications on cryptic species. Recently published reviews have demonstrated cryptic species have profound consequences on many biological disciplines. It has been proposed that their distribution is non-random across taxa and biomes.
We analysed a literature database for the taxonomic and biogeographical distribution of cryptic animal species reports. Results from regression analysis indicate that cryptic species are almost evenly distributed among major metazoan taxa and biogeographical regions when corrected for species richness and study intensity.
This indicates that morphological stasis represents an evolutionary constant and that cryptic metazoan diversity does predictably affect estimates of earth's animal diversity. Our findings have direct theoretical and practical consequences for a number of prevailing biological questions with regard to global biodiversity estimates, conservation efforts and global taxonomic initiatives.
PMCID: PMC1939701  PMID: 17640383
6.  Comparing the efficacy of morphologic and DNA-based taxonomy in the freshwater gastropod genus Radix (Basommatophora, Pulmonata) 
Reliable taxonomic identification at the species level is the basis for many biological disciplines. In order to distinguish species, it is necessary that taxonomic characters allow for the separation of individuals into recognisable, homogeneous groups that differ from other such groups in a consistent way. We compared here the suitability and efficacy of traditionally used shell morphology and DNA-based methods to distinguish among species of the freshwater snail genus Radix (Basommatophora, Pulmonata).
Morphometric analysis showed that shell shape was unsuitable to define homogeneous, recognisable entities, because the variation was continuous. On the other hand, the Molecularly defined Operational Taxonomic Units (MOTU), inferred from mitochondrial COI sequence variation, proved to be congruent with biological species, inferred from geographic distribution patterns, congruence with nuclear markers and crossing experiments. Moreover, it could be shown that the phenotypically plastic shell variation is mostly determined by the environmental conditions experienced.
Contrary to DNA-taxonomy, shell morphology was not suitable for delimiting and recognising species in Radix. As the situation encountered here seems to be widespread in invertebrates, we propose DNA-taxonomy as a reliable, comparable, and objective means for species identification in biological research.
PMCID: PMC1679812  PMID: 17123437
7.  Why do snails have hairs? A Bayesian inference of character evolution 
Costly structures need to represent an adaptive advantage in order to be maintained over evolutionary times. Contrary to many other conspicuous shell ornamentations of gastropods, the haired shells of several Stylommatophoran land snails still lack a convincing adaptive explanation. In the present study, we analysed the correlation between the presence/absence of hairs and habitat conditions in the genus Trochulus in a Bayesian framework of character evolution.
Haired shells appeared to be the ancestral character state, a feature most probably lost three times independently. These losses were correlated with a shift from humid to dry habitats, indicating an adaptive function of hairs in moist environments. It had been previously hypothesised that these costly protein structures of the outer shell layer facilitate the locomotion in moist habitats. Our experiments, on the contrary, showed an increased adherence of haired shells to wet surfaces.
We propose the hypothesis that the possession of hairs facilitates the adherence of the snails to their herbaceous food plants during foraging when humidity levels are high. The absence of hairs in some Trochulus species could thus be explained as a loss of the potential adaptive function linked to habitat shifts.
PMCID: PMC1310604  PMID: 16271138
8.  Evidence for survival of Pleistocene climatic changes in Northern refugia by the land snail Trochoidea geyeri (Soós 1926) (Helicellinae, Stylommatophora) 
The study of organisms with restricted dispersal abilities and presence in the fossil record is particularly adequate to understand the impact of climate changes on the distribution and genetic structure of species. Trochoidea geyeri (Soós 1926) is a land snail restricted to a patchy, insular distribution in Germany and France. Fossil evidence suggests that current populations of T. geyeri are relicts of a much more widespread distribution during more favourable climatic periods in the Pleistocene.
Phylogeographic analysis of the mitochondrial 16S rDNA and nuclear ITS-1 sequence variation was used to infer the history of the remnant populations of T. geyeri. Nested clade analysis for both loci suggested that the origin of the species is in the Provence from where it expanded its range first to Southwest France and subsequently from there to Germany. Estimated divergence times predating the last glacial maximum between 25–17 ka implied that the colonization of the northern part of the current species range occurred during the Pleistocene.
We conclude that T. geyeri could quite successfully persist in cryptic refugia during major climatic changes in the past, despite of a restricted capacity of individuals to actively avoid unfavourable conditions.
PMCID: PMC155936  PMID: 12720575

Results 1-8 (8)