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Evidence for survival of Pleistocene climatic changes in Northern refugia by the land snail Trochoidea geyeri (Soós 1926) (Helicellinae, Stylommatophora)

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Abstract

The study of organisms with restricted dispersal abilities and presence in the fossil record is particularly adequate to understand the impact of climate changes on the distribution and genetic structure of species. Trochoidea geyeri (Soós 1926) is a land snail restricted to a patchy, insular distribution in Germany and France. Fossil evidence suggests that current populations of T. geyeri are relicts of a much more widespread distribution during more favourable climatic periods in the Pleistocene. Results: Phylogeographic analysis of the mitochondrial 16S rDNA and nuclear ITS-1 sequence variation was used to infer the history of the remnant populations of T. geyeri. Nested clade analysis for both loci suggested that the origin of the species is in the Provence from where it expanded its range first to Southwest France and subsequently from there to Germany. Estimated divergence times predating the last glacial maximum between 25–17 ka implied that the colonization of the northern part of the current species range occurred during the Pleistocene. Conclusion: We conclude that T. geyeri could quite successfully persist in cryptic refugia during major climatic changes in the past, despite of a restricted capacity of individuals to actively avoid unfavourable conditions.

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