Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom

Research Article

Molecular divergence between two sympatric species of Dondice (Mollusca: Nudibranchia) with distinct feeding specializations

Luis Gonzaleza1, Dieta Hansona1 and Ángel Valdésa1 c1

a1 Department of Biological Sciences, California State Polytechnic University, 3801 West Temple Avenue, Pomona, California 91768, USA

Abstract

Analysis of mitochondrial (16S) and nuclear (H3) gene data using phylogenetic and population genetic approaches has revealed some genetic differences between two putative species of western Atlantic Dondice opisthobranchs that feed differentially on hydroids or on up-side-down jellies of the genus Cassiopeia. These results partially support the validity of the species Dondice parguerensis, which was described for the jelly-eating Dondice. However, phylogenetic analyses revealed that the hydroid-feeding species Dondice occidentalis and D. parguerensis are not reciprocally monophyletic and they are identical for the nuclear H3 gene. Although there are morphological and developmental differences between these two nominal species, the molecular data are inconclusive. A possible explanation is that the two putative species are in the process of speciation due to different feeding habits, resulting in the presence of genetic synapomorphies in D. parguerensis, but only in the more variable 16S gene. Because the ranges D. occidentalis and D. parguerensis overlap and there are no obvious barriers to gene flow between the two putative species, this may constitute a possible example of incipient sympatric speciation in benthic marine organisms.

(Received August 23 2012)

(Accepted March 18 2013)

(Online publication April 24 2013)

Keywords

  • Opisthobranchia;
  • 16S;
  • Histone 3;
  • Cassiopeia

Correspondence

c1 Correspondence should be addressed: A. Valdés, Department of Biological Sciences, California State Polytechnic University, 3801 West Temple Avenue, Pomona, California 91768, USA email: aavaldes@csupomona.edu