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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2016 May;98:300-13. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2016.01.021. Epub 2016 Feb 11.

Peeking through the trapdoor: Historical biogeography of the Aegean endemic spider Cyrtocarenum Ausserer, 1871 with an estimation of mtDNA substitution rates for Mygalomorphae.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Democritus University of Thrace, GR-68131 Alexandroupolis, Greece. Electronic address:
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Democritus University of Thrace, GR-68131 Alexandroupolis, Greece.
The Exelixis Lab, Scientific Computing Group, Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies, D-68159 Heidelberg, Germany.
Department of Ecology and Taxonomy, Faculty of Biology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, GR-15784 Athens, Greece.


The Aegean region, located in the Eastern Mediterranean, is an area of rich biodiversity and endemism. Its position, geographical configuration and complex geological history have shaped the diversification history of many animal taxa. Mygalomorph spiders have drawn the attention of researchers, as excellent model systems for phylogeographical investigations. However, phylogeographic studies of spiders in the Aegean region are scarce. In this study, we focused on the phylogeography of the endemic ctenizid trap-door spider Cyrtocarenum Ausserer, 1871. The genus includes two morphologically described species: C. grajum (C.L. Koch, 1836) and C. cunicularium (Olivier, 1811). We sampled 60 specimens from the distributions of both species and analyzed four mitochondrial and two nuclear markers. Cyrtocarenum served as an example to demonstrate the importance of natural history traits in the inference of phylogeographic scenarios. The mtDNA substitution rates inferred for the genus are profoundly higher compared to araneomorph spiders and other arthropods, which seems tightly associated with their biology. We evaluate published mtDNA substitution rates followed in the literature for mygalomorph spiders and discuss potential pitfalls. Following gene tree (maximum likelihood, Bayesian inference) and species tree approaches ((*)BEAST), we reconstructed a time-calibrated phylogeny of the genus. These results, combined with a biogeographical ancestral-area analysis, helped build a biogeographic scenario that describes how the major palaeogeographic and palaeoclimatic events of the Aegean may have affected the distribution of Cyrtocarenum lineages. The diversification of the genus seems to have begun in the Middle Miocene in the present west Aegean area, while major phylogenetic events occurred at the Miocene-Pliocene boundary for C. cunicularium, probably related to the Messinian Salinity Crisis. Our results also demonstrate the clear molecular distinction of the two morphologically described species, but possible cryptic lineages may exist within C. cunicularium.


Araneae; Ctenizidae; Greece; Introgression; Molecular clock; Turkey

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