Decoupling of molecular and morphological evolution in deep lineages of a meiobenthic harpacticoid copepod

  • Rocha-Olivares A
  • Fleeger J
  • Foltz D
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Molecular and biochemical genetic analyses have revealed that many marine invertebrate taxa, including some well-studied and presumably cosmopolitan species, are actually complexes of sibling species. When morphological differences are slight and estimated divergence times are old, data suggest either unusually high rates of sequence evolution or long-term morphological stasis. Here, five gene regions (mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit I and large-subunit ribosomal 16S rDNA and nuclear ITS1, 5.8S rDNA, and ITS2) were analyzed in four geographic samples of the meiobenthic harpacticoid copepod Cletocamptus deitersi. Molecular sequences revealed four extremely differentiated molecular lineages with unalignable nuclear intergenic spacers and mitochondrial uncorrected divergences reaching 25% (cytochrome oxidase) and 36% (16S rDNA). These levels of divergence are greater than those reported previously for congeneric species in diverse invertebrate taxa, including crustaceans. The nominally intraspecific divergence matches or exceeds the corresponding divergence from a known congener (Cletocamptus helobius). A molecular clock applied to the cytochrome oxidase subunit I data suggests that these lineages split in the Miocene, consistent with the fossil record of a North American Cletocamptus from the same period. Morphological differences among the major lineages are subtle but congruent with the patterns of genetic differentiation. Our conclusion, based on concordant patterns of variation in two mitochondrial and three nuclear gene regions, as well as morphological observations, is that C. deitersi in North America is composed of at least four separate species by the genealogical concordance, phylogenetic, and morphological-species criteria. Alternative explanations for the deep phylogenetic nodes and apparent morphological stasis, including high rates of sequence evolution, balancing selection, and genetic signatures of historical events, are considered unlikely.

Author-supplied keywords

  • 16s ribosomal Dna
  • Cletocamptus deitersi
  • Cryptic species
  • Cytochrome oxidase subunit I
  • Morphological stasis
  • Nuclear ribosomal Dna

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  • Axayacatl Rocha-OlivaresCentro de Investigacion Cientifica y de Educacion Superior de Ensenada Division de Fisica Aplicada

  • John W. Fleeger

  • David W. Foltz

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