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Phylogeny of the water strider genus Aquarius Schellenberg (Heteroptera: Gerridae) based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA sequences and morphology

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image of Insect Systematics & Evolution

We examined phylogenetic relationships among gerrid water striders of the genus Aquarius Schellenberg using molecular and morphological characters. The molecular data sets included 780 bp sequence data from the mitochondrial gene encoding cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI), and 515 bp sequence data from the nuclear gene encoding elongation factor I alpha (EF-1α). The morphological data set was a slightly modified version of a previously published data set. We included all 17 known species and one subspecies of Aquarius as well as five species from three related genera, Gigantometra gigas, Limnoporus esakii, L. rufoscutellatus, Gerris pingreensis, and G. lacustris. Unweighted parsimony analyses of the COI data set gave a single most parsimonious tree (MPT) with a topology quite similar to the morphological tree. Parsimony analyses of the EF-1α data set gave 3 MPT's and a strict consensus of these trees gave a tree with a slightly different topology. A combined analysis of the three data sets gave a single MPT with the same topology as for the morphological data set alone. The phylogeny of Aquarius presented here supports the monophyly of the A. najas, remigis, conformis and paludum species groups as well as previous hypotheses about their relationships. On the other hand, the inclusion of molecular data weakens the support for the monophyly of the genus Aquarius, and questions the specific status of the eastern North American A. nebularis (as separate from A. conformis) and members of the Nearctic A. remigis group. Finally, we discuss the implications of the reconstructed phylogeny in the biogeography and ecological phylogenetics of Aquarius.

Affiliations: 1: Zoological Institute and Zoological Museum, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark; 2: Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, Division of Insect Biology, 201 Wellmann Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3112, U.S.A.


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