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Open Access Research article

Rapid radiation in spiny lobsters (Palinurus spp) as revealed by classic and ABC methods using mtDNA and microsatellite data

Ferran Palero124*, Joao Lopes4, Pere Abelló2, Enrique Macpherson3, Marta Pascual1 and Mark A Beaumont4

Author Affiliations

1 Departament de Genètica, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 645, 08028 Barcelona, Spain

2 Institut de Ciències del Mar (CSIC), Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta 37-49, 08003 Barcelona, Spain

3 Centre d'Estudis Avançats de Blanes (CSIC), Carrer d'Accés a la Cala Sant Francesc 14, 17300 Blanes, Spain

4 School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading, Whiteknights, P.O. Box 228, Reading RG6 6AJ, UK

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2009, 9:263  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-263

Published: 9 November 2009

Abstract

Background

Molecular tools may help to uncover closely related and still diverging species from a wide variety of taxa and provide insight into the mechanisms, pace and geography of marine speciation. There is a certain controversy on the phylogeography and speciation modes of species-groups with an Eastern Atlantic-Western Indian Ocean distribution, with previous studies suggesting that older events (Miocene) and/or more recent (Pleistocene) oceanographic processes could have influenced the phylogeny of marine taxa. The spiny lobster genus Palinurus allows for testing among speciation hypotheses, since it has a particular distribution with two groups of three species each in the Northeastern Atlantic (P. elephas, P. mauritanicus and P. charlestoni) and Southeastern Atlantic and Southwestern Indian Oceans (P. gilchristi, P. delagoae and P. barbarae). In the present study, we obtain a more complete understanding of the phylogenetic relationships among these species through a combined dataset with both nuclear and mitochondrial markers, by testing alternative hypotheses on both the mutation rate and tree topology under the recently developed approximate Bayesian computation (ABC) methods.

Results

Our analyses support a North-to-South speciation pattern in Palinurus with all the South-African species forming a monophyletic clade nested within the Northern Hemisphere species. Coalescent-based ABC methods allowed us to reject the previously proposed hypothesis of a Middle Miocene speciation event related with the closure of the Tethyan Seaway. Instead, divergence times obtained for Palinurus species using the combined mtDNA-microsatellite dataset and standard mutation rates for mtDNA agree with known glaciation-related processes occurring during the last 2 my.

Conclusion

The Palinurus speciation pattern is a typical example of a series of rapid speciation events occurring within a group, with very short branches separating different species. Our results support the hypothesis that recent climate change-related oceanographic processes have influenced the phylogeny of marine taxa, with most Palinurus species originating during the last two million years. The present study highlights the value of new coalescent-based statistical methods such as ABC for testing different speciation hypotheses using molecular data.