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Title: An evolutionary history of the peregrine epigeic earthworm Lumbricus rubellus
Author: Sechi, Pierfrancesco
ISNI:       0000 0004 2752 4293
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2013
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Recent studies have indicated the presence of a high degree of cryptic genetic diversity in some clitellate sentinel species. One of these species, the earthworm Lumbricus rubellus, has been recently found to comprise two divergent clades in the UK, and are possibly cryptic species. L. rubellus is commonly used in ecotoxicological assays, where undetected differences in contaminant responses between cryptic lineages may lead to confusing or misleading results. Furthermore, given the key role that earthworm species play in the soil ecosystem, a better understanding of cryptic diversity is necessary to investigate whether divergent lineages play different roles within their ecosystems. In this study, the phylogenomics of the acid-tolerant, cosmopolitan, epigeic species Lumbricus rubellus was investigated, with regard to demography during the glacial stages of the Pleistocene and the recent post-glacial colonization of North Europe using mitochondrial DNA markers, next-generation sequencing and environmental niche modelling tools. The niche suitability of L.rubellus during the last 120.000 years was inferred, allowing hypotheses on survival and recolonisation to be constructed. Phylogenetic, population structure and coalescent-based analyses resulted in the discovery of 11 deep divergent lineages (with levels of divergence up to 18% for mitochondrial markers), which most likely survived in refugia during Pleistocene glaciations. Signatures of expansions point to a possible recolonisation of central Europe during the last Glaciation, survival of one of the clades in a northern cryptic glacial refugium and a consequent recolonisation of northern Europe during the last 10,000 years. Genetic evidence and divergence time ultimately suggest that L. rubellus is a cryptic species complex, which clades diverged as far as ~5MY ago. The entire mitochondrial genome of the species complex is described here for the first time, and a survey of the deep phylogenetic signal over the mitochondrial genomes of eight selected individuals was carried out, supporting and deepening the phylogeny constructed using only two mitochondrial genes. Finally, whole genome analysis of genetic divergence supported the hypothesis of cryptic divergence for the two most divergent lineages selected
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: QH301 Biology ; QH426 Genetics ; QL Zoology