Scientia Marina, Vol 83, No 3 (2019)

To be or not to be? What molecules say about Runcina brenkoae Thompson, 1980 (Gastropoda: Heterobranchia: Runcinida)

Ana Karla Araujo
Departamento de Biología, Facultad de Ciencias del Mar y Ambientales, Campus de Excelencia Internacional del Mar (CEIMAR), Universidad de Cádiz, Spain

Marta Pola
Departamento de Biología, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain

Manuel Antonio E. Malaquias
Section of Taxonomy and Evolution, Department of Natural History, University Museum of Bergen, Norway

Juan Lucas Cervera
Departamento de Biología, Facultad de Ciencias del Mar y Ambientales, Campus de Excelencia Internacional del Mar (CEIMAR), Universidad de Cádiz - Instituto Universitario de Investigación Marina (INMAR), Campus de Excelencia Internacional del Mar (CEIMAR), Universidad de Cádiz, Spain


Runcinids are poorly known minute marine slugs inhabiting intertidal and shallow subtidal rocky shores. Among the European species, Runcina brenkoae, described from the Adriatic Sea in the Mediterranean, has been described to display chromatic variability, placing in question the true identity and geographic distribution of the species. In this paper we investigate the taxonomic status of R. brenkoae based on specimens from the central and western Mediterranean Sea and the southern Iberian coastline of Portugal and Spain, following an integrative approach combining multi-locus molecular phylogenetics based on the mitochondrial markers cytochrome c oxidase subunit I and 16S rRNA and the nuclear gene histone H3, together with the study of morpho-anatomical characters investigated by scanning electron microscopy. To aid in species delimitation, the Automatic Barcode Gap Discovery and Bayesian Poisson tree process methods were employed. Our results indicate the existence of a complex of three species previously identified as R. brenkoae, namely two new species here described (R. marcosi n. sp. and R. lusitanica n. sp.) and R. brenkoae proper.


Runcinida; DNA barcoding; species delimitation; integrative taxonomy; biodiversity; phylogeny

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