Phylogeography of supralittoral rocky intertidal Ligia isopods in the pacific region from central California to central Mexico.
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BACKGROUND: Ligia isopods are widely distributed in the Pacific rocky intertidal shores from central California to central Mexico, including the Gulf of California. Yet, their biological characteristics restrict them to complete their life cycles in a very narrow range of the rocky intertidal supralittoral. Herein, we examine phylogeographic patterns of Ligia isopods from 122 localities between central California and central Mexico. We expect to find high levels of allopatric diversity. In addition, we expect the phylogeographic patterns to show signatures of past vicariant events that occurred in this geologically dynamic region. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We sequenced two mitochondrial genes (Cytochrome Oxidase I and 16S ribosomal DNA). We conducted Maximum Likelihood and Bayesian phylogenetic analyses. We found many divergent clades that, in general, group according to geography. Some of the most striking features of the Ligia phylogeographic pattern include: (1) deep mid-peninsular phylogeographic breaks on the Pacific and Gulf sides of Baja peninsula; (2) within the Gulf lineages, the northern peninsula is most closely related to the northern mainland, while the southern peninsula is most closely related to the central-southern mainland; and, (3) the southernmost portion of the peninsula (Cape Region) is most closely related to the southernmost portion of mainland. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Our results shed light on the phylogenetic relationships of Ligia populations in the study area. This study probably represents the finest-scale phylogeographic examination for any organism to date in this region. Presence of highly divergent lineages suggests multiple Ligia species exist in this region. The phylogeographic patterns of Ligia in the Gulf of California and Baja peninsula are incongruent with a widely accepted vicariant scenario among phylogeographers, but consistent with aspects of alternative geological hypotheses and phylo- and biogeographic patterns of several other taxa. Our findings contribute to the ongoing debate regarding the geological origin of this important biogeographic region.