Multiple transisthmian divergences, extensive cryptic diversity, occasional long-distance dispersal, and biogeographic patterns in a marine coastal isopod with an amphi-American distribution. Academic Article uri icon


  • Excirolana braziliensis is a coastal intertidal isopod with a broad distribution spanning the Atlantic and Pacific tropical and temperate coasts of the American continent. Two separate regional studies (one in Panama and one in Chile) revealed the presence of highly genetically divergent lineages, implying that this taxon constitutes a cryptic species complex. The relationships among the lineages found in these two different regions and in the rest of the distribution, however, remain unknown. To better understand the phylogeographic patterns of E.braziliensis, we conducted phylogenetic analyses of specimens from much of its entire range. We obtained DNA sequences for fragments of four mitochondrial genes (16S rDNA, 12S rDNA, COI, and Cytb) and also used publicly available sequences. We conducted maximum likelihood and Bayesian phylogenetic reconstruction methods. Phylogeographic patterns revealed the following: (1) new highly divergent lineages of E.braziliensis; (2) three instances of Atlantic-Pacific divergences, some of which appear to predate the closure of the Isthmus of Panama; (3) the distributional limit of highly divergent lineages found in Brazil coincides with the boundary between two major marine coastal provinces; (4) evidence of recent long-distance dispersal in the Caribbean; and (5) populations in the Gulf of California have closer affinities with lineages further south in the Pacific, which contrasts with the closer affinity with the Caribbean reported for other intertidal organisms. The high levels of cryptic diversity detected also bring about challenges for the conservation of this isopod and its fragile environment, the sandy shores. Our findings underscore the importance of comprehensive geographic sampling for phylogeographic and taxonomical studies of broadly distributed putative species harboring extensive cryptic diversity.

published proceedings

  • Ecol Evol

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Hurtado, L. A., Mateos, M., Mattos, G., Liu, S., Haye, P. A., & Paiva, P. C.

citation count

  • 22

complete list of authors

  • Hurtado, Luis A||Mateos, Mariana||Mattos, Gustavo||Liu, Shuang||Haye, Pilar A||Paiva, Paulo C

publication date

  • November 2016