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  • Writer's pictureezequiel cruz rosa

One Antarctic slug to confuse them all: the underestimated diversity of Doris kerguelenensis


The Antarctic marine environment, although rich in life, is predicted to experience rapid and significant effects from climate change. Despite a revolution in the approaches used to document biodiversity, less than one percent of Antarctic marine invertebrates are represented by DNA barcodes and we are at risk of losing biodiversity before discovery. The ease of sequencing mitochondrial DNA barcodes has promoted this relatively ‘universal’ species identification system across most metazoan phyla and barcode datasets are currently readily used for exploring questions of species-level taxonomy. Here we present the most well-sampled phylogeny of the

direct-developing, Southern Ocean nudibranch mollusc, Doris kerguelenensis to date. This study sampled over 1000 new Doris kerguelenensis specimens spanning the Southern Ocean and sequenced the mitochondrial COI gene. Results of a maximum likelihood phylogeny and multiple subsequent species delimitation analyses identified 27 new species in this complex (now 59 in total). Using rarefaction techniques, we infer more species are yet to be discovered. Some species were only collected from southern South America or the sub-Antarctic islands, while at least four species were found spanning the Polar Front. This is contrary to dispersal predictions for species without a larval stage such as Doris kerguelenensis. Our work demonstrates the value

of increasing geographic scope in sampling and highlights what could be lost given the current global biodiversity crisis.

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