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Biol Lett. 2006 Mar 22;2(1):73-7.

Rapid evolution of sessility in an endemic species flock of the freshwater bivalve Corbicula from ancient lakes on Sulawesi, Indonesia.

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Museum of Natural History, Humboldt University Berlin, Invalidenstrasse 43 10115 Berlin, Germany.


The fauna of ancient lakes frequently contains taxa with highly derived morphologies that resulted from in situ radiation of lacustrine lineages with high antiquity. We employed a molecular mtDNA phylogeny to investigate this claim for corbiculid freshwater bivalves in two ancient lake systems on the Indonesian island Sulawesi. Among the otherwise mobile corbiculid species flock, only one taxon, Posostrea anomioides, in the ancient Lake Poso exhibits a unique habit, i.e. cementing one valve to the substrate. Our data show that Corbicula on Sulawesi is polyphyletic, with the endemic riverine taxa in terminal position, and the lacustrine species flock being paraphyletic. Surprisingly, Posostrea is not confirmed as a genus distinct from Corbicula and genetic distances suggest a rather recent origin from the only other corbiculid species endemic to Lake Poso, the non-cementing Corbicula possoensis. While the cementing anomioides, despite its unique behavioural and morphological characteristics, clusters together with non-sessile Corbicula species, the latter exhibit strong genetic distances in the absence of morphological disparity and fall into several genetically rather distinct clades. These findings suggest that developmental plasticity of animals in ancient lakes rather than the antiquity of lineages might account for the unique morphology of some species.

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