Phylogeography of cave pseudoscorpions in southern Australia

T. A. Moulds, N. Murphy, M. Adams, T. Reardon, M. S. Harvey, J. Jennings, A. D. Austin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: To investigate molecular phylogenetic divergence and historical biogeography of the cave-dwelling pseudoscorpion genus Protochelifer. Location: Caves and nearby epigean habitats in southern Australia were sampled from western Victoria, Naracoorte Caves, Flinders Ranges, Kangaroo Island, Nullarbor Plain and south-west Western Australia. Methods: Allozyme electrophoresis (57 individuals) and a 569-base-pair section of the mtDNA COI gene (22 individuals) were used to reconstruct phylogenetic relationships among four cave species and three epigean species from 13 locations. Results: Phylogenetic reconstruction using the allozyme and mtDNA sequence data revealed a similar topology, showing recent speciation of several Protochelifer populations in caves from Naracoorte to the Nullarbor Plain. Naracoorte Caves contained a single species, Protochelifer naracoortensis, found in four separate caves, while all other cave species appear to be restricted to single caves. Main conclusions: At a local scale, as indicated by the four Naracoorte caves, dispersal is thought to occur via micro- and mesocaverns, and possibly by phoresy using insect or bat vectors. With current data we are unable to determine if cavernicolous species of Protochelifer have arisen from a single cave colonization event followed by phoretic dispersal on bats to other caves, or multiple cave-invasion events from independent epigean ancestors. Genetic heterogeneity among Protochelifer populations from Nullarbor caves suggest that P. cavernarum, the only species presently recorded from this region, is likely to constitute a species complex requiring further study to fully resolve its relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)951-962
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biogeography
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2007
Externally publishedYes


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