Genetic study of cave millipedes reveals isolated populations and ancient divergence between species

Genetic study of cave millipedes reveals isolated populations and ancient divergence between species
This is a Tetracion millipede from Alabama, USA. Credit: Alan Cressler

Last week the International Journal of Myriapodology published the first population genetic study of cave millipedes. This research highlights an important challenge in the conservation of cave biodiversity – that for many species caves are 'islands' of habitat that support isolated and genetically distinct populations.

The southern Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee and Alabama, USA is known for its high cave density. In addition, it has the highest cave biodiversity of any region in North America. Millipedes of the genus Tetracion range across this biodiversity hotspot. These millipedes, which can grow up to 8 cm in length, are common scavengers in cave communities. Like many animals, Tetracion millipedes have reduced pigmentation and non-functional eyes.

The authors used genetic techniques to compare Tetracion populations and species. They found that Tetracion populations were generally isolated from one another. In addition, divergence between Tetracion species was high, suggesting that members of the genus diverged several million years ago.


Explore further

Researchers chirping over discovery of new cricket genus

More information: Loria, S.F., K.S. Zigler and J.J. Lewis. 2011. Molecular phylogeography of the troglobiotic millipede Tetracion Hoffman, 1956 (Diplopoda: Callipodida: Abacionidae). International Journal of Myriapodology 5:35-48. doi: 10.3897/ijm.5.1891
Provided by Pensoft Publishers
Citation: Genetic study of cave millipedes reveals isolated populations and ancient divergence between species (2011, October 17) retrieved 19 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2011-10-genetic-cave-millipedes-reveals-isolated.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
0 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more