Phylogeography of the harvestman Metasiro (Arthropoda, Arachnida, Opiliones) reveals a potential solution to the Pangean paradox.


Clouse, R.M., P. P. Sharma, J.C. Stuart, L.R. Davis, G. Giribet, S.L. Boyer, and W.C. Wheeler. In Press. “Phylogeography of the harvestman Metasiro (Arthropoda, Arachnida, Opiliones) reveals a potential solution to the Pangean paradox..” Organisms Diversity & Evoution, 1-18. Berlin Heidelberg: Springer, 1-18.


At both global and local scales, mite harvestmen (Opiliones, Cyphophthalmi) have been shown to have achieved their current global distribution strictly through vicariance. However, the implicit low dispersal capability of this group does not explain how they expand their ranges and come to occupy enormous landmasses prior to rifting. To investigate at the population level the limited vagility that characterizes the suborder generally, and how its dispersal capacity determines diversification dynamics, range expansion, and historical biogeography, we examined as a test case the phylogeography of the genus Metasiro. This genus consists of three widely separated, morphologically cryptic species that inhabit the Southeastern United States. Distances between sampling sites spanned a range of geographic scales, from 4 m to over 500 km. Population structure was inferred from fragments of six loci (three mitochondrial, three nuclear) amplified from 221 specimens. We tested for population structure and gene flow, constructed a dated phylogeny of the genus, and developed a program for estimating the effective population size with confidence intervals. Individuals of Metasiro americanus demonstrate remarkable population structure at scales of less than 25 m, but populations vary in their haplotypic diversity, and some exhibit evidence of historical gene flow. The estimated timing of cladogenesis within the genus accords closely with the geological history of the North American coastline, and the three species are at the endpoints of large watersheds. This suggests that mite harvestman lineages expand their ranges by hydrochory, providing for the first time a plausible mechanism whereby these animals dispersed across Pangea despite their low vagility in stable environments.

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Last updated on 12/23/2015