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Research article2009Peer reviewedOpen access

Deeply divergent mitochondrial lineages reveal patterns of local endemism in chironomids of the Australian Wet Tropics

Krosch, Matt N.; Baker, Andrew M.; Mckie, Brendan G.; Mather, Peter B.; Cranston, Peter S.


The Wet Tropics bioregion of north-eastern Australia has been subject to extensive fluctuations in climate throughout the late Pliocene and Pleistocene. Cycles of rainforest contraction and expansion of dry sclerophyll forest associated with such climatic fluctuations are postulated to have played a major role in driving geographical endemism in terrestrial rainforest taxa. Consequences for the distributions of aquatic organisms, however, are poorly understood. The Australian non-biting midge species Echinocladius martini Cranston (Diptera: Chironomidae), although restricted to cool, well-forested freshwater streams, has been considered to be able to disperse among populations located in isolated rainforest pockets during periods of sclerophyllous forest expansion, potentially limiting the effect of climatic fluctuations on patterns of endemism. In this study, mitochondrial COI and 16S data were analysed for E. martini collected from eight sites spanning the Wet Tropics bioregion to assess the scale and extent of phylogeographic structure. Analyses of genetic structure showed several highly divergent cryptic lineages with restricted geographical distributions. Within one of the identified lineages, strong genetic structure implied that dispersal among proximate (< 1 km apart) streams was extremely restricted. The results suggest that vicariant processes, most likely due to the systemic drying of the Australian continent during the Plio-Pleistocene, might have fragmented historical E. martini populations and, hence, promoted divergence in allopatry.


chironomidae; cryptic diversity; Echinocladius martini; pleistocene; vicariance

Published in

Austral Ecology
2009, Volume: 34, number: 3, pages: 317-328

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Fish and Aquacultural Science
    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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