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Gulf Coast vicariance shapes phylogeographic history of a North American freshwater mussel species complex

March 12, 2021


Freshwater mussels share habitat and are parasites of freshwater fishes during the larval life stage. Therefore, models of fish biogeography may also explain the historical biogeography of freshwater mussels. We tested this assumption using predictions of three biogeographic models constructed for northern Gulf of Mexico drainages on a freshwater mussel species complex. Specifically, we tested (1) if speciation was due to vicariant events of fluctuating sea levels that separated lineages east‐west of the Mobile Basin (Central Gulf Coast speciation hypothesis), (2) if the timing of divergences occurred 8.5–3.5 MYA (Gulf Coast allopatric speciation model) and (3) if diversification in Mississippi River populations was recent and for evidence of population increase consistent with range expansion into northern deglaciated regions (Pleistocene glaciation model).


Eastern North America.


Freshwater mussels (Bivalvia: Unionidae), Lampsilis teres and L. floridensis.


We collected 249 specimens from 73 localities across the group's distribution. We used three molecular markers (COI, NDI & ITSI) to conduct time calibrated Bayesian phylogenetic analyses, phylogeographic analyses (AMOVA & SAMOVA) and demographic analyses including Bayesian skyline plots.


Lampsilis teres and L. floridensis are allopatric species whose distributions meet at the eastern edge of the Mobile Basin. Speciation was estimated to occur in the late Miocene. Populations from isolated river systems surrounding the Gulf of Mexico are almost all monophyletic. Mississippi drainage samples formed a shallow clade with recent diversification and showed evidence of recent population expansion.

Main conclusions

The historical biogeography of the L. teres species complex is broadly consistent with tested ichthyofaunal models. The timing of speciation and intraspecific divergences correspond to low sea‐level events suggesting that Gulf Coast sea‐level fluctuations are responsible for dispersal (sea‐level recession) and subsequent cladogenesis (sea‐level inundation). Consistent with numerous other freshwater studies, we found the Mobile Basin to be a suture zone, which may be due to the narrow, offshore continental shelf.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2021
Title Gulf Coast vicariance shapes phylogeographic history of a North American freshwater mussel species complex
DOI 10.1111/jbi.14066
Authors Sean M. Keogh, Nathan Johnson, James D. Williams, Charles R. Randklev, Andrew Simons
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Biogeography
Index ID 70219011
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wetland and Aquatic Research Center