Morphological and molecular analysis of centropagids from the high Andean plateau (Copepoda: Calanoidea)
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In small metazoan invertebrates classical taxonomic analyses can be ambiguous due to the limited number of morphological characters available. This difficulty can yield incorrect estimates of species richness or taxa distribution. The Boeckella genus has been described as the dominant taxon of zooplankton assemblages in the Andean biogeographical region. In this genus, taxonomic classification and delimitation of boundaries between species has long been problematic and controversial. Among South American centropagids Boeckella gracilipes has been regarded as one of the most broadly distributed species, its presence having been reported from Ecuador to Tierra del Fuego. However, in the high Andean plateau some centropagid populations identified as Boeckella gracilipes have also been considered as B. gracilipes titicacae or even identified as a different species, namely Boeckella titicacae. In an attempt to resolve the taxonomic status of the Centropagidae family from the high Andean plateau, we combined traditional and multivariate morphological analyses (integral approach) with the molecular phylogenetic approach. The results obtained allow us to conclude that centropagids collected from the high Andean plateau actually represent a different species, B. titicacae, not B. gracilipes. The phylogenetic reconstruction of the South American Centropagidae family indicated that B. gracilipes represents a sister taxon to B. titicacae. The present study stresses the usefulness of integrating alfa-taxonomy with morphometric and molecular approaches in order to resolve species boundaries, to determine geographical distributions and to investigate evolutionary processes.
KeywordsSouth America centropagids High Andean plateau Species boundaries Morphological analysis Molecular phylogenetics
The collaboration of officers and staff at the Regimiento Huamachuco is gratefully acknowledged. Research in the Surire salt deposit is part of an ongoing collaboration between CECS and the Chilean Army and was supported in part by HHMI. R. Scheihing holds a postgraduate fellowship from CONICYT. R. Néspolo thanks FONDECYT grant Nº 1090423. Centro de Estudios Científicos (CECS) is funded by the Chilean Government through the Millennium Science Initiative and the Centers of Excellence Base Financing Program of Conicyt. CECS is also supported by a group of private companies, which at present includes Antofagasta Minerals, Arauco, Empresas CMPC, Indura, Naviera Ultragas and Telefónica del Sur.
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