Despite apparent long-term geographic isolation, many invertebrates demonstrate little apparent morphological differentiation. To examine underlying genetic differentiation, eight erpobdellid leech populations from widely dispersed northern Arizona aquatic ecosystems were examined by means of amplified fragment length polymorphism genetic markers. These populations were primarily Erpobdella punctata, though two populations, Motobdella montezuma and Motobdella sedonensis, have been described as novel taxa. Data from 137 polymorphic loci were used to estimate genetic heterogeneity (θ), migration rates (Nm), and genetic similarities (Dice's method) among these populations. Analysis of molecular variance and cluster analysis (unweighted pair-group method) were used to show population structure and to partition the genetic variance. Our analysis indicates that northern Arizona leech populations are genetically isolated (θ = 0.72, Nm = 0.09), with significant (p < 0.01) differentiation among populations. In addition, no relationship was found between genetic and geographic distances (r = 0.19, p = 0.22), which is consistent with long-term isolation even when populations are in close proximity. The large amount of genetic differentiation reveals levels of diversity and complexity not apparent from morphological comparisons alone and suggests that erpobdellid leeches in the arid landscape of the southwestern U.S.A. are in fact evolving independently from one another.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology