The morphologically remarkable endemic fauna within ancient lakes has received much attention in the literature. More inconspicuous taxa, however, often lack detailed molecular and morphometrical examination, although their proportion of the endemic fauna of an ancient lake must not be underestimated. Consequently, a better understanding of evolutionary patterns and processes within these lakes requires more knowledge about the often-neglected inconspicuous taxa. In the present study, we focus on the notoriously cryptic pea clam genus Pisidium (Bivalvia: Sphaeriidae). Though the genus is widely distributed, most endemic species are reported only from ancient lakes, including the European ancient sister lake system of Ohrid and Prespa on the Balkan Peninsula. Here we test for the first time hypotheses on the evolution of the endemic pea clams in this European biodiversity hotspot by molecular means. Combining a broad 16S phylogeny (comprising most European pea clam species), network analyses and morphometrical analyses, we found interesting biogeographical patterns and provide evidence for cryptic species in both lakes. Furthermore, we confirmed the proposed sister-species relationship of the endemics P. edlaueri in Lake Ohrid and P. maasseni in Lake Prespa, and we suggest scenarios of the endemic pea clam evolution within both lakes. The patterns of speciation found in the genus Pisidium are compared to patterns in morphologically distinct molluscan groups in lakes Ohrid und Prespa.
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