Cryptic species within the freshwater isopod Mesamphisopus capensis (Phreatoicidea: Amphisopodidae) in the Western Cape, South Africa: allozyme and 12S rRNA sequence data and morphometric evidence

Gouws G. ; Stewart B.A. ; Daniels S.R. (2004)


The freshwater phreatoicidean isopod Mesamphisopus capensis has been regarded as the most widespread of the four Mesamphisopus species occurring in the Western Cape, South Africa. To determine whether this species was monotypic across its distribution over two mountainous regions, separated by a low-lying coastal plain remnant, genetic differentiation among populations from 11 localities was studied through allozyme electrophoresis of 12 loci and sequencing of a 338-bp 12S rRNA mtDNA fragment from representative individuals. Populations of the two regions were separated by a mean identity value of 0.477. Fixed allele differences at two loci distinguished these regions. Estimates of θ indicated substantial differentiation among populations across the entire sample, as well as within each of the regions. Topologies derived through parsimony and neighbour joining supported the monophyly of the two regions. On the basis of these topologies, allele frequencies and an allozyme dendrogram, five groups were identified. Discriminant function analyses, performed on body and pereopod variables independently, revealed these groups to be well differentiated with a high rate of correct a posteriori reclassification. Using genetic distance criteria these five distinct forms may be considered to be putative species. From a conservation perspective, the two regions can be seen to represent two evolutionarily significant units, while the five groups should be regarded as management units. © 2004 The Linnean Society of London.

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