We designed a comparative study to unravel the phylogeography of two Alpine endemic spiders characterized by a different degree of adaptation to subterranean life: Troglohyphantes vignai (Araneae, Linyphiidae) and Pimoa rupicola (Araneae, Pimoidae), the latter showing minor adaptation to hypogean life. We sampled populations of the model species in caves and other subterranean habitats across their known geographical range in theWestern Alps. By combining phylogeographic inferences and Ecological NicheModeling techniques, we inferred the biogeographic scenario that led to the present day population structure of the two species. According to our divergent time estimates and relative uncertainties, the isolation of T. vignai and P. rupicola from their northern sister groups was tracked back to Middle-Late Miocene. Furthermore, the fingerprint left by Pleistocene glaciations on the population structure revealed by the genetic data, led to the hypothesis that a progressive adaptation to subterranean habitats occurred in T. vignai, followed by strong population isolation. On the other hand, P. rupicola underwent a remarkable genetic bottleneck during the Pleistocene glaciations, that shaped its present population structure. It seems likely that such shallow population structure is both the result of the minor degree of specialization to hypogean life and the higher dispersal ability characterizing this species. The simultaneous study of overlapping spider species showing different levels of adaptation to hypogean life, disclosed a new way to clarify patterns of biological diversification and to understand the effects of past climatic shift on the subterranean biodiversity.
Mammola, S., Isaia, M., & Arnedo, M. A. (2015). Alpine endemic spiders shed light on the origin and evolution of subterranean species. PeerJ, 2015(11). https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.1384