Biogeography and genetic diversity of terrestrial mites in the Ross Sea region, Antarctica

TitleBiogeography and genetic diversity of terrestrial mites in the Ross Sea region, Antarctica
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsCollins, GE, Young, MR, Convey, P, Chown, SL, Cary, CS, Adams, B, Wall, DH, Hogg, ID
Date Published03/2023
KeywordsAcari, Antarctic conservation, DNA barcoding, geographic isolation, speciation

Free-living terrestrial mites (Acari) have persisted through numerous glacial cycles in Antarctica. Very little is known, however, of their genetic diversity and distribution, particularly within the Ross Sea region. To redress this gap, we sampled mites throughout the Ross Sea region, East Antarctica, including Victoria Land and the Queen Maud Mountains (QMM), covering a latitudinal range of 72–85 °S, as well as Lauft Island near Mt. Siple (73 °S) in West Antarctica and Macquarie Island (54 °S) in the sub-Antarctic. We assessed genetic diversity using mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I gene sequences (COI-5P DNA barcode region), and also morphologically identified voucher specimens. We obtained 130 sequences representing four genera: Nanorchestes (n = 30 sequences), Stereotydeus (n = 46), Coccorhagidia (n = 18) and Eupodes (n = 36). Tree-based analyses (maximum likelihood) revealed 13 genetic clusters, representing as many as 23 putative species indicated by barcode index numbers (BINs) from the Barcode of Life Datasystems (BOLD) database. We found evidence for geographically-isolated cryptic species, e.g., within Stereotydeus belli and S. punctatus, as well as unique genetic groups occurring in sympatry (e.g., Nanorchestes spp. in QMM). Collectively, these data confirm high genetic divergence as a consequence of geographic isolation over evolutionary timescales. From a conservation perspective, additional targeted sampling of understudied areas in the Ross Sea region should be prioritised, as further diversity is likely to be found in these short-range endemic mites.