Spintharus flavidus in the Caribbean-a 30 million year biogeographical history and radiation of a 'widespread species'

Austin DzikiIngi Agnarsson


The Caribbean island biota is characterized by high levels of endemism, the result of an interplay between colonization opportunities on islands and effective oceanic barriers among them. A relatively small percentage of the biota is represented by 'widespread species,' presumably taxa for which oceanic barriers are ineffective. Few studies have explored in detail the genetic structure of widespread Caribbean taxa. The cobweb spider Spintharus flavidus Hentz, 1850 (Theridiidae) is one of two described Spintharus species and is unique in being widely distributed from northern N. America to Brazil and throughout the Caribbean. As a taxonomic hypothesis, Spintharus "flavidus" predicts maintenance of gene flow among Caribbean islands, a prediction that seems contradicted by known S. flavidus biology, which suggests limited dispersal ability. As part of an extensive survey of Caribbean arachnids (project CarBio), we conducted the first molecular phylogenetic analysis of S. flavidus with the primary goal of testing the 'widespread species' hypothesis. Our results, while limited to three molecular loci, reject the hypothesis of a single widespread species. Instead this lineage seems to represent a radiation with at least 16 species in...Continue Reading


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