Contrasting phylogeography of sandy vs. rocky supralittoral isopods in the megadiverse and geologically dynamic Gulf of California and adjacent areas.
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Phylogeographic studies of animals with low vagility and restricted to patchy habitats of the supralittoral zone, can uncover unknown diversity and shed light on processes that shaped evolution along a continent's edge. The Pacific coast between southern California and central Mexico, including the megadiverse Gulf of California, offers a remarkable setting to study biological diversification in the supralittoral. A complex geological history coupled with cyclical fluctuations in temperature and sea level provided ample opportunities for diversification of supralittoral organisms. Indeed, a previous phylogeographic study of Ligia, a supralittoral isopod that has limited dispersal abilities and is restricted to rocky patches, revealed high levels of morphologically cryptic diversity. Herein, we examined phylogeographic patterns of Tylos, another supralittoral isopod with limited dispersal potential, but whose habitat (i.e., sandy shores) appears to be more extensive and connected than that of Ligia. We conducted Maximum Likelihood and Bayesian phylogenetic analyses on mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequences. These analyses revealed multiple highly divergent lineages with discrete regional distributions, despite the recognition of a single valid species for this region. A traditional species-diagnostic morphological trait distinguished several of these lineages. The phylogeographic patterns of Tylos inside the Gulf of California show a deep and complex history. In contrast, patterns along the Pacific region between southern California and the Baja Peninsula indicate a recent range expansion, probably postglacial and related to changes in sea surface temperature (SST). In general, the phylogeographic patterns of Tylos differed from those of Ligia. Differences in the extension and connectivity of the habitats occupied by Tylos and Ligia may account for the different degrees of population isolation experienced by these two isopods and their contrasting phylogeographic patterns. Identification of divergent lineages of Tylos in the study area is important for conservation, as some populations are threatened by human activities.