Sex-biased dispersal obscures species boundaries in integrative species delimitation approaches

Eberle J, Bazzato E, Fabrizi S, Rossini M, Colomba M, Cillo D, Uliana M, Sparacio I, Sabatinelli G, Warnock RCM, Carpaneto G, Ahrens D (2019)

Publication Type: Journal article

Publication year: 2019


Book Volume: 68

Pages Range: 441-459

Journal Issue: 3

DOI: 10.1093/sysbio/syy072


Accurate delimitation of species is crucial for a stable taxonomy, which provides the foundation for the study of evolutionary biology, ecology, and essentially all biological disciplines. Several approaches toward impartial and repeatable taxonomic practices are available but all existing methods have potentially unacceptable shortcomings. In particular, problems can arise when the underlying model assumptions are violated, for instance, in the presence of reduced gene flow. This is observed in the context of sex-biased dispersal, which is a common but underappreciated feature in many groups of organisms. Previously, simulations have indicated that sex-biased dispersal may lead to erroneous estimations of the true species numbers. However, this phenomenon has never been examined using empirical data. We evaluate the bias introduced by extreme female philopatry on a range of de novo [GMYC, PTP, ABGD, statistical parsimony, trinomial distribution of triplets model (tr2)] and validation (STACEY, iBPP) approaches to species delimitation in the scarab beetle genus Pachypus. Since female philopatry exhibitedinthis genusinparticular can affectmitochondrial geneflow, wecompared the results from analyses of single loci, mitochondrial loci, nuclear loci and combined data, as well as the performance of morphometric data as a secondary data source in a fully integrative Bayesian framework. Large overestimation of species numbers was observed across all analyses of combined and mitochondrial DNA data sets, suggesting specimens from nearly every sampling location as separate species. The use of nuclear data resulted in more reasonable estimations of species boundaries, which were largely supported by morphometrics of linear measurements, while geometric morphometrics of body outlines resulted in stronger splitting. Simulations of population divergence with migration, corresponding to the biology of Pachypus, showed that female philopatry strongly increases reciprocal monophyly of mitochondrial markers and may substantially contribute to over-splitting in species delimitation. Robust results recovered using nuclear DNA and morphological data nevertheless enabled us to reach novel conclusions about species boundaries in Pachypus. Our findings suggest that mitochondrial DNA will be less suited to species delimitation in many cases, in particular in the presence of sex-biased dispersal.

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Eberle, J., Bazzato, E., Fabrizi, S., Rossini, M., Colomba, M., Cillo, D.,... Ahrens, D. (2019). Sex-biased dispersal obscures species boundaries in integrative species delimitation approaches. Systematic Biology, 68(3), 441-459.


Eberle, Jonas, et al. "Sex-biased dispersal obscures species boundaries in integrative species delimitation approaches." Systematic Biology 68.3 (2019): 441-459.

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