Cryptic species delineation in freshwater planarians of the genus Dugesia (Platyhelminthes, Tricladida): Extreme intraindividual genetic diversity, morphological stasis, and karyological variability.


Dpt. de Genètica, Microbiologia i Estadística, Facultat de Biologia, and Institut de Recerca de la Biodiversitat (IRBio), Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. Electronic address: [Email]


The keystone of planarian taxonomy traditionally has been the anatomy of the copulatory apparatus. However, many planarian species comprise asexual fissiparous populations, with the fissiparous animals not developing a copulatory apparatus, thus precluding their morphological identification. Incorporation of molecular data into planarian systematics has been of great value, not only in the identification of fissiparous individuals but also as an additional source of information for determining species boundaries. Nevertheless, the discrepancy between morphological and molecular data has highlighted the need for extra sources of taxonomic information. Moreover, a recent study has pointed out that fissiparous reproduction may lead to high levels of intraindividual genetic diversity in planarians, which may mislead molecular analyses. In the present study we aim to test a new up-to-date integrative taxonomic procedure for planarians, including intraindividual genetic data and additional sources of taxonomic information, besides morphology and DNA, using Dugesia subtentaculata sensu lato as a model organism, a species with an intricate taxonomic history. First, we used three different methods for molecular species delimitation on single locus datasets, both with and without intraindividual information, for formulating Primary Species Hypotheses (PSHs). Subsequently, Secondary Species Hypotheses (SSHs) were formulated on the basis of three types of information: (1) a coalescent-based species delimitation method applied to multilocus data, (2) morphology of the copulatory apparatus, and (3) karyological metrics. This resulted in the delimitation of four morphologically cryptic species within the nominal species D. subtentaculata. Our results provide evidence that the analysis of intraindividual genetic data is essential for properly developing PSHs in planarians. Our study reveals also that karyological differentiation, rather than morphological differentiation, may play an important role in speciation processes in planarians, thus suggesting that the currently known diversity of the group could be highly underestimated.


ABGD,BPP,GMYC,Integrative taxonomy,Mosaicism,mPTP,