Extreme conditions in subsurface are suspected to be responsible for morphological convergences, and so to bias biodiversity assessment. Subterranean organisms are also considered as having poor dispersal abilities that in turn generate a large number of endemic species when habitat is fragmented. Here we test these general hypotheses using the subterranean amphipod Niphargus virei. All our phylogenetic analyses (Bayesian, maximum likelihood and distance), based on two independent genes (28S and COI), revealed the same tripartite structure. N. virei populations from Benelux, Jura region and the rest of France appeared as independent evolutionary units. Molecular rates estimated via global or Bayesian relaxed clock suggest that this split is at least 13 million years old and accredit the cryptic diversity hypothesis. Moreover, the geographical distribution of these lineages showed some evidence of recent dispersal through apparent vicariant barrier. In consequence, we argue that future analyses of evolution and biogeography in subsurface, or more generally in extreme environments, should consider dispersal ability as an evolving trait and morphology as a potentially biased marker. © 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
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