Cryptic speciation and limited hybridization within Lumbricus earthworms (Clitellata: Lumbricidae)


Cryptic mitochondrial (mt) lineages are known to exist in the earthworm morphospecies Lumbricus rubellus and L. terrestris. The latter was recently split into two species, L. terrestris and L. herculeus, based on large genetic distances and a statistical difference in body size. There is support for the separation of some lineages in L. rubellus into species, whereas other lineages, separated by similar mt genetic distances, have been found to be part of the same species. However, no study has evaluated the status of the cryptic mt lineages in L. terrestris-L. herculeus and L. rubellus using nuclear genes. We use a combination of methods to reveal extensive cryptic speciation and limited hybridization in Lumbricus, based on one nuclear (H3) and one mitochondrial (COI) marker. Using a Bayesian multi-locus species delimitation method, as well as single gene haplotype networks and gene trees, we delimit seven well supported cryptic species within the morphospecies L. rubellus, and confirm the split within the species-pair L. terrestris-L. herculeus. Limited hybridization was found between the most common species of L. rubellus (A) in northern Europe and two other species (B and H) in this complex, as well as between L. terrestris and L. herculeus. Deep mt divergence was found within L. terrestris s.str. but no support for further splitting of this taxon was found. Both L. rubellus and L. terrestris are well studied model organisms, and considering that cryptic species and hybridization were found within them, it is important that they are properly identified in future studies.

Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 106: 18-27