Biogeographic history of subterranean isopods from groundwater calcrete islands in Western Australia

Mohammad Javidkar, Steven J.B. Cooper, William F. Humphreys, Rachael A. King, Simon Judd, Andrew D. Austin

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11 Citations (Web of Science)


Groundwater calcretes in arid central Western Australia contain a diverse invertebrate groundwater fauna (stygofauna). Surveys have uncovered a diverse oniscidean isopod subterranean fauna above the water table (troglofauna), including species of a recently described genus Paraplatyarthrus. The aim of this study was to investigate the biogeographic history of Paraplatyarthrus and the timing of transitions from surface to subterranean habitats. Phylogenetic relationships among the isopod troglofauna from 11 groundwater calcretes along three palaeodrainage systems were assessed using one mitochondrial gene, cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (COI), and two nuclear markers, lysyl-tRNA synthetase (LysRS) and 18S rRNA (18S) genes. Phylogenetic analyses revealed multiple sister lineage relationships between troglophile and troglobite lineages and evidence for divergent mtDNA lineages within species, providing a range of nodes for dating evolutionary transitions from surface to subterranean habitats. Relaxed molecular clock analyses provided evidence that evolutionary transitions from surface to subterranean environments took place between 13.3 and 1.75 million years ago, coinciding with the onset of aridification of Australia from the late Tertiary. In cases where groundwater calcretes contained multiple species, the taxa were not closely related phylogenetically, suggesting that these calcretes were independently colonised by multiple ancestral species. The study further confirmed the role of late/post-Miocene aridification as a key driver of the evolution of subterranean invertebrates in the calcrete islands of Western Australia, supporting the climatic relict hypothesis. Troglobites most likely evolved from the troglophile ancestors that were capable of dispersal among, and active colonisation of, calcretes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-220
Number of pages15
JournalZoologica Scripta
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


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