Understanding the biogeography of a group of earthworms in the Mediterranean basin--the phylogenetic puzzle of Hormogastridae (Clitellata: Oligochaeta).Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2011 Oct; 61(1):125-35.MP
Traditional earthworm taxonomy is hindered due to their anatomical simplicity and the plasticity of the characteristics often used for diagnosing species. Making phylogenetic inferences based on these characters is more than difficult. In this study we use molecular tools to unravel the phylogeny of the clitellate family Hormogastridae. The family includes species of large to mid-sized earthworms distributed almost exclusively in the western Mediterranean region where they play an important ecological role. We analyzed individuals from 46 locations spanning the Iberian Peninsula to Corsica and Sardinia, representing the four described genera in the family and 20 species. Molecular markers include mitochondrial regions of the cytochrome c oxidase subunit I gene (COI), 16S rRNA and tRNAs for Leu, Ala, and Ser, two nuclear ribosomal genes (nearly complete 18S rRNA and a fragment of 28S rRNA) and two nuclear protein-encoding genes (histones H3 and H4). Analyses of the data using different approaches corroborates monophyly of Hormogastridae, but the genus Hormogaster is paraphyletic and Hormogaster pretiosa appears polyphyletic, stressing the need for taxonomic revisionary work in the family. The genus Vignysa could represent an early offshoot in the family, although the relationships with other genera are uncertain. The genus Hemigastrodrilus is related to the Hormogaster elisae complex and both are found in the Atlantic drainage of the Iberian Peninsula and France. From a biogeographic perspective Corsica and Sardinia include members of two separate hormogastrid lineages. The species located in Corsica and Northern Sardinia are related to Vignysa, whereas Hormogaster pretiosa pretiosa, from Southern Sardinia, is closely related to the Hormogaster species from the NE Iberian Peninsula. A molecular dating of the tree using the separation of the Sardinian microplate as a calibration point (at 33 MY) and assuming a model of vicariance indicates that the diversification of Hormogastridae may be ancient, ranging from 97 to 67 Ma.