Pre-Pleistocene geological events shaping diversification and distribution of primitively segmented spiders on East Asian margins

Xin Xu, Fengxiang Liu, Jian Chen, Hirotsugu Ono, Ingi Agnarsson, Daiqin Li, Matjaž Kuntner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: Phylogeographical research in the East Asian continent and islands (East Asian Margins, or EAM) suggests predominant Pleistocene over-water dispersal events from continent to islands, but more ancient biogeographical patterns in EAM remain obscure. We explored biogeographical histories and population genetic structures of the primitively segmented spiders, Heptathela and Ryuthela (Liphistiidae), broadly codistributed across EAM islands. To test competing biogeographical hypotheses, we looked for geohistoric events that may have shaped their distributional patterns. Location: Kyushu and Ryukyus. Methods: We sampled 17 Heptathela and Ryuthela species on 10 out of 12 EAM islands and sequenced fragments of two mitochondrial and three nuclear genes. We performed phylogenetic, network, time-calibrated and biogeographical analyses to identify lineages, estimate their divergence times, and reconstruct ancestral ranges. We also assessed genetic diversity and historic demography of each lineage. Results: Phylogenetic origin of Heptathela + Ryuthela is estimated at 26.6-18.4 Ma (95% HPD) when EAM islands became separated from the continent. The crown ages of Heptathela (18.0-10.7 Ma) and Ryuthela (17.8-8.7 Ma) coincide with the formation of Japan Sea and Okinawa Trough respectively. A split within Ryuthela (13.9-6.0 Ma) coincides with the opening of the Kerama Gap, but a split within Heptathela (18.0-10.7 Ma) pre-dates the formation of the Tokara Gap. Speciation within Heptathela and Ryuthela is relatively recent (6.0-0.3 Ma). Population genetic and demographic results suggest interrupted gene flow within and among islands, with most species exhibiting stable past populations. Main conclusions: Historic biogeographical reconstructions strongly suggest predominant vicariant origins of EAM island liphistiids. Restricted gene flow following barrier formation is the dominant speciation force in these spiders. As they never seem to cross bodies of water, their past range expansion, successive fragmentation of EAM, and other vicariant events, must have shaped the detected genetic boundaries among and within islands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1004-1019
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Biogeography
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Zoltán Korsós, Mamoru Toda and Bo Wu for field help, Miquel Arnedo, Matjaž Gregoric, Nina Vidergar and Ren-Chung Cheng for help and/or advice on molecular resources and procedures, and the staff members of the Centre for Behavioural Ecology and Evolution (CBEE, Hubei University) and of the Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology Lab (DBS, NUS) for all their help and support throughout this study, in particularly Zhanqi Chen, Xiaoguo Jiao, Jie Liu, Yu Peng, Chen Xu, Long Yu and Zengtao Zhang. We value the positive feedback from three anonymous referees. This work was supported by the NSFC grant (31272324), by the Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) AcRF Tier 2 grant (R-154-000-621-112) and by the Slovenian Research Agency grants (P1-10236 and MU-PROM/12-001).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Other keywords

  • Biogeography
  • Cenozoic
  • Continental islands
  • Dispersal
  • Kyushu
  • Phylogeography
  • Ryukyus
  • Vicariance


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