Terrestrial invasion of pomatiopsid gastropods in the heavy-snow region of the Japanese Archipelago
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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011, 11:118 doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-118Published: 5 May 2011
Gastropod mollusks are one of the most successful animals that have diversified in the fully terrestrial habitat. They have evolved terrestrial taxa in more than nine lineages, most of which originated during the Paleozoic or Mesozoic. The rissooidean gastropod family Pomatiopsidae is one of the few groups that have evolved fully terrestrial taxa during the late Cenozoic. The pomatiopsine diversity is particularly high in the Japanese Archipelago and the terrestrial taxa occur only in this region. In this study, we conducted thorough samplings of Japanese pomatiopsid species and performed molecular phylogenetic analyses to explore the patterns of diversification and terrestrial invasion.
Molecular phylogenetic analyses revealed that Japanese Pomatiopsinae derived from multiple colonization of the Eurasian Continent and that subsequent habitat shifts from aquatic to terrestrial life occurred at least twice within two Japanese endemic lineages. Each lineage comprises amphibious and terrestrial species, both of which are confined to the mountains in heavy-snow regions facing the Japan Sea. The estimated divergence time suggested that diversification of these terrestrial lineages started in the Late Miocene, when active orogenesis of the Japanese landmass and establishment of snowy conditions began.
The terrestrial invasion of Japanese Pomatiopsinae occurred at least twice beside the mountain streamlets of heavy-snow regions, which is considered the first case of this event in the area. Because snow coverage maintains stable temperatures and high humidity on the ground surface, heavy-snow conditions may have paved the way for these organisms from freshwater to land via mountain streamlets by preventing winter desiccation in mountain valleys. The fact that the terrestrialization of Pomatiopsidae occurred only in year-round wet environments, but not in seasonally dried regions, provides new insight into ancient molluscan terrestrialization.