Freshwater diatom biogeography and the genus Luticola: an extreme case of endemism in Antarctica

Historical views have characterized Antarctica as a frozen desert with low diversity, although recent studies suggest that this may not be true for microscopic organisms. For microbes, assessing endemism in the Antarctic region has been particularly important, especially against a backdrop of debate regarding their presumed cosmopolitan nature. To contribute to this conversation, we highlight the observed endemism of the freshwater diatom genus Luticola in Antarctica by synthesizing the results of a modern high-resolution taxonomy from the Continental, Maritime, and sub-Antarctic regions. We report that Luticola has one of the highest endemic rates of any diatom genus in Antarctica, in terms of total number of species (taxon endemism) and percentage of the entire genus (phylogenetic endemism). Of the over 200 species of Luticola globally, nearly 20% (43) occur in the Antarctic, with 42 of these being endemic. Within regions, Maritime Antarctica has the largest number of Luticola species and endemics (28 and 23, respectively), followed by Continental Antarctica (14, 9) and sub-Antarctic islands (8, 6). Thus, 38 of the 42 endemics are found in a single region only. While the timing of Luticola diversification has not been established, fossil evidence suggests recent invasions and/or diversification over a relatively short geologic timescale. Understanding the origin and evolution of endemic diatom species in Antarctica will help us better understand microbial biogeography, as well as assess and interpret impacts of large-scale environmental change taking place at southern latitudes.


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Authors: Kociolek, J.P., Kopalová, K., Hamsher, S.E., Kohler, T.J., Van de Vijver, B., Convey, P. ORCIDORCID record for P. Convey, McKnight, D.M.

On this site: Peter Convey
1 June, 2017
Polar Biology / 40
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