Genetic differentiation and detection of cryptic species in the genus Lepismachilis (Insecta: Microcoryphia) from the Western Mediterranean region

Pietro Paolo Fanciulli, Miguel Gaju, Carmen Bach, Francesco Frati

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Different species of the bristletail genus Lepismachilis were collected in 14 localities in Italy and Spain and an allozyme electrophoretic survey was carried out to estimate the degree of genetic variability and differentiation at intra- and interspecific levels. Four morphological species were initially identified (L. osellai, L. y-signata, L. affinis, L. targionii), but the electrophoretic analysis demonstrated the presence of two additional species among the individuals of L. targionii (Lepismachilis sp1 and sp2). The validity of these species and their differentiation from L. targionii were demonstrated by the fixation of alternative allelic patterns at several loci (7 in Lepismachilis sp1 and 8 in Lepismachilis sp2), coupled with fixed, previously undetected, morphological differences. In addition, Lepismachilis sp2 was sympatric with L. targionii in three collecting sites, where the fixation of alternative allelic patterns unequivocally demonstrated reproductive isolation. Genetic variability did not seem to be correlated with local ecological factors, and differences between species should rather be explained by different historical factors. Low levels of gene flow, estimated with two different indirect methods, were observed in L. targionii and L. y-signata, and were due to high levels of structuring among populations. Genetic differentiation among conspecific populations was no correlated to their geographical arrangement and the presence of loci fixed for different alleles among them suggested that stochastic factors (such as genetic drift) may have played a role in determining genetic differentiation of geographically isolated populations. Genetic divergence values indicated t hat the six species are well differentiated and allozyme profiles were diagnostic for all of them. On the other hand, allozyme data did not provide adequate information to resolve evolutionary relationships among the species, nor did they confirm the validity of the two subgenera (Lepismachilis and Berlesilis) in which the genu Lepismachilis is traditionally divided.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)533-551
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1997


  • Allozyme variation
  • Evolution
  • Gene flow
  • Geographic isolation
  • Heterozygosity
  • Soil insects
  • Speciation


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