Global diversification at the harsh sea-land interface: mitochondrial phylogeny of the supralittoral isopod genus Tylos (Tylidae, Oniscidea). Academic Article uri icon


  • The supralittoral environment, at the transition between sea and land, is characterized by harsh conditions for life. Nonetheless, evolution of terrestrial isopods (Oniscidea), the only group of Crustacea fully adapted to live on land, appears to have involved a transitional step within the supralittoral. The two most basal oniscidean lineages (Ligiidae and Tylidae) have representatives that successfully colonized the supralittoral. One of them is the genus Tylos, which is found exclusively in supralittoral sandy beaches from tropical and subtropical coasts around the world. Comprehensive phylogenetic hypotheses for this genus are lacking, which are necessary for understanding the evolution and biogeography of a lineage that successfully diversified in the harsh sea-land interface. Herein, we studied the phylogenetic relationships among 17 of the 21 currently recognized species of the genus Tylos, based on sequences from four mitochondrial genes (Cytochrome Oxidase I, Cytochrome b, 16S rDNA, and 12S rDNA). Maximum Likelihood and Bayesian phylogenetic analyses identified several lineages with deep divergences and discrete geographic distributions. Phylogenetic and distributional patterns of Tylos provide important clues on the biogeography and evolution of this group. Large divergences among the most basal clades are consistent with ancient splits. Due to the biological characteristics of Tylos, which likely prevent dispersal of these isopods across vast oceanic scales, we argue that tectonic events rather than trans-oceanic dispersal explain the distribution of Tylos in different continents. Overwater dispersal, however, likely enabled range expansions within some basins, and explains the colonization of volcanic oceanic islands. Present-day distributions were also likely influenced by sea level and climate changes. High levels of allopatric cryptic genetic differentiation are observed in different regions of the world, implying that the dispersal abilities of Tylos isopods are more limited than previously thought. Our results indicate that a taxonomic revision of this group is necessary.

published proceedings

  • PLoS One

altmetric score

  • 4

author list (cited authors)

  • Hurtado, L. A., Lee, E. J., Mateos, M., & Taiti, S.

citation count

  • 16

complete list of authors

  • Hurtado, Luis A||Lee, Eun J||Mateos, Mariana||Taiti, Stefano

editor list (cited editors)

  • Cordaux, R.

publication date

  • April 2014