Phylogeography of Argiope argentata and A. butchko sp. n.

The Caribbean islands harbor rich biodiversity with high levels of single island endemism. Stretches of ocean between islands represent significant barriers to gene-flow. Yet some native species are widespread, indicating dispersal across oceans, even in wingless organisms like spiders. Argiope argentata (Fabricius, 1775) is a large, charismatic, and widespread species of orb-weaving spider ranging from the United States to Argentina and is well known to balloon. Here we explore the phylogeography of A. argentata in the Caribbean as a part of the multi-lineage CarBio project, through mtDNA haplotype and multi-locus phylogenetic analyses. The history of the Argiope argentata lineage in the Caribbean goes back 3-5 million years and is characterized by multiple dispersal events and isolation-by-distance. We find a highly genetically distinct lineage on Cuba which we describe as Argiope butchko sp. n. While the argentata lineage seems to readily balloon shorter distances, stretches of ocean still act as filters for among-island gene-flow as evidenced by distinct haplotypes on the more isolated islands, high FST values, and strong correlation between intraspecific (but not interspecific) genetic and geographic distances. The new species described here is clearly genetically diagnosable, but morphologically cryptic, at least with reference to the genitalia that typically diagnose spider species. Our results are consistent with the intermediate dispersal model suggesting that good dispersers, such as our study species, limit the effect of oceanic barriers and thus diversification and endemism.


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