Biogeography and diversification of hermit spiders on Indian Ocean islands (Nephilidae: Nephilengys)

Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Matjaž Kuntner, Ingi Agnarsson


The origin of the terrestrial biota of Madagascar and, especially, the smaller island chains of the western Indian Ocean is relatively poorly understood. Madagascar represents a mixture of Gondwanan vicariant lineages and more recent colonizers arriving via Cenozoic dispersal, mostly from Africa. Dispersal must explain the biota of the smaller islands such as the Comoros and the chain of Mascarene islands, but relatively few studies have pinpointed the source of colonizers, which may include mainland Africa, Asia, Australasia, and Madagascar. The pantropical hermit spiders (genus Nephilengys) seem to have colonized the Indian Ocean island arc stretching from Comoros through Madagascar and onto Mascarenes, and thus offer one opportunity to reveal biogeographical patterns in the Indian Ocean. We test alternative hypotheses on the colonization route of Nephilengys spiders in the Indian Ocean and simultaneously test the current taxonomical hypothesis using genetic and morphological data. We used mitochondrial (COI) and nuclear (ITS2) markers to examine Nephilengys phylogenetic structure with samples from Africa, southeast Asia, and the Indian Ocean islands of Madagascar, Mayotte, Réunion and Mauritius. We used Bayesian and parsimon...Continue Reading


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Jun 4, 2014·PloS One·Matjaž KuntnerJonathan A Coddington
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