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Annu Rev Entomol. 2014;59:143-63. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ento-011613-161958. Epub 2013 Oct 18.

Freshwater biodiversity and aquatic insect diversification.

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  • 1Naturalis Biodiversity Center, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands; email:


Inland waters cover less than 1% of Earth's surface but harbor more than 6% of all insect species: Nearly 100,000 species from 12 orders spend one or more life stages in freshwater. Little is known about how this remarkable diversity arose, although allopatric speciation and ecological adaptation are thought to be primary mechanisms. Freshwater habitats are highly susceptible to environmental change and exhibit marked ecological gradients. Standing waters appear to harbor more dispersive species than running waters, but there is little understanding of how this fundamental ecological difference has affected diversification. In contrast to the lack of evolutionary studies, the ecology and habitat preferences of aquatic insects have been intensively studied, in part because of their widespread use as bioindicators. The combination of phylogenetics with the extensive ecological data provides a promising avenue for future research, making aquatic insects highly suitable models for the study of ecological diversification.

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