Freshwater mussels are considered the most imperiled group of organisms in North America and systematics research has played an integral role in the development and implementation of their conservation. Despite the importance of systematics in conservation planning, the evolutionary relationships between many mussel taxa remain poorly explored, clearly illustrated by Strophitus undulatus. This species is wide-ranging, occurring in streams across the United States and Canada with a disjunct population in the Colorado River drainage in central Texas. The widespread distribution of S. undulatus, as well as high intraspecific morphological variation, has led previous authors to doubt the taxon is representative of a single species. In this study, we set out to investigate species boundaries in S. undulatus by integrating environmental, molecular, and morphological datasets. Molecular and morphological data supported S. undulatus from the Colorado River as distinct, which was supplemented by a species distribution modeling approach, suggesting potential adaptation to Edwards Plateau streams has contributed to speciation. Given our findings, we formally describe a new species of freshwater mussel, Strophitus howellsi, endemic to streams along the Edwards Plateau in the Colorado River drainage. A conservation assessment of S. howellsi suggests the species is extremely rare within a highly restricted distribution and may warrant future recovery actions. Our findings build on a growing body of literature highlighting aquatic endemism along the Edwards Plateau and have significant conservation implications for freshwater mussels in Texas.
|Title||Environmental, morphological, and molecular data reveal a new species of freshwater mussel, Strophitus howellsi, endemic to the Edwards Plateau in Texas|
|Authors||Chase H. Smith, Alexander H. Kiser, Nathan Johnson, Charles R. Randklev|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Series Title||Conservation Genetics|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Wetland and Aquatic Research Center|