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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2004 Jul;32(1):236-45.

Cladogenesis in a starfish species complex from southern Australia: evidence for vicariant speciation?

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Department of Zoology, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand.


DNA sequencing (cytochrome oxidase I; 82 sequences; 25 locations) of a species complex of Australian six-rayed sea-stars (genus Patiriella) reveals four well-supported mtDNA clades, corresponding to P. oriens, P. occidens, P. medius, and P. gunnii. These clades have non-random geographic distributions along an east to west axis that are broadly consistent with the biogeographic provinces of southern Australia proposed by. The taxa are deeply divergent (minimum 7.5%) and are estimated to have originated during the late Pliocene. By contrast, intra-clade divergences are small, typically less than 1.0%. Phylogenetic analysis of mtDNA provides strong support for the combined monophyly of multicoloured forms (P. oriens, P. occidens, and P. medius; 100% bootstrap support) and suggests that P. medius (central) and P. occidens (western) may be sister taxa (up to 76% bootstrap support). Maximum likelihood analysis of nuclear DNA sequences (actin; 1437 bp) yields an optimal tree largely consistent with mtDNA groupings, but with little bootstrap support. The biogeographic distribution of P. oriens (eastern) and P. occidens (western) is roughly consistent with a vicariant model involving allopatric divergence during glaciation. In addition, we propose that the Great Australian Bight may also have retained isolated populations during glacial periods, perhaps explaining the "central" distributions of P. gunnii and P. medius.

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