A phylogenetic approach to the origin and maintenance of species diversity ideally requires the sampling of all species within a clade, confirmation that they are evolutionarily distinct entities, and knowledge of their geographical distributions. In the marine tropics such studies have mostly been of fish and reef-associated organisms, usually with high dispersal. In contrast, snails of the genus Echinolittorina (Littorinidae) are restricted to rocky shores, have a four-week pelagic development (and recorded dispersal up to 1400 km), and show different evolutionary patterns. We present a complete molecular phylogeny of Echinolittorina, derived from Bayesian analysis of sequences from nuclear 28S rRNA and mitochondrial 12S rRNA and COI genes (nodal support indicated by posterior probabilities, maximum likelihood, and neighbor-joining bootstrap). This consists of 59 evolutionarily significant units (ESUs), including all 50 known taxonomic species. The 26 ESUs found in the Indo-West Pacific region form a single clade, whereas the eastern Pacific and Atlantic species are basal. The earliest fossil occurred in the Tethys during the middle Eocene and we suggest that the Indo-West Pacific clade has been isolated since closure of the Tethyan seaway in the early Miocene. The geographical distributions of all species (based on more than 3700 locality records) appear to be circumscribed by barriers of low temperature, unsuitable sedimentary habitat, stretches of open water exceeding about 1400 km, and differences in oceanographic conditions on the continuum between oceanic and continental. The geographical ranges of sister species show little or no overlap, indicating that the speciation mode is predominantly allopatric. Furthermore, range expansion following speciation appears to have been limited, because a high degree of allopatry is maintained through three to five branching points of the phylogeny. This may be explained by infrequent long-distance colonization, habitat specialization on the oceanic/continental gradient, and perhaps by interspecific competition. In the eastern Pacific plus Atlantic we identify five cases of divergence on either side of the Isthmus of Panama, but our estimates of their ages pre-date the emergence of the Isthmus. There are three examples of sister relationships between species in the western Atlantic and eastern Atlantic, all resulting from dispersal to the east. Within the Indo-West Pacific, we find no geographical pattern of speciation events; narrowly endemic species of recent origin are present in both peripheral and central parts of the region. Evidence from estimated divergence times of sister species, and from a plot of the number of lineages over time, suggest that there has been no acceleration of diversification during the glacio-eustatic cycles of the Plio-Pleistocene. In comparison with reefal organisms, species of Echinolittorina on rocky shores may be less susceptible to extinction or isolation during sea-level fluctuations. The species richness of Echinolittorina in the classical biogeographic provinces conforms to the common pattern of highest diversity (11 species) in the central "East Indies Triangle" of the Indo-West Pacific, with a subsidiary focus in the eastern Pacific and western Atlantic, and lowest diversity in the eastern Atlantic. The diversity focus in the East Indies Triangle is produced by a mosaic of restricted allopatric species and overlap of a few widespread ones, and is the result of habitat specialization rather than historical vicariance. This study emphasizes the plurality of biogeographic histories and speciation patterns in the marine tropics.
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