Genetic diversity of soil invertebrates corroborates timing estimates for past collapses of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet

During austral summer field seasons between 1999 and 2018, we sampled at 91 locations throughout southern Victoria Land and along the Transantarctic Mountains for six species of endemic microarthropods (Collembola), covering a latitudinal range from 76.0°S to 87.3°S. We assembled individual mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (COI) sequences (n = 866) and found high levels of sequence divergence at both small (600 km) spatial scales for four of the six Collembola species. We applied molecular clock estimates and assessed genetic divergences relative to the timing of past glacial cycles, including collapses of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). We found that genetically distinct lineages within three species have likely been isolated for at least 5.54 My to 3.52 My, while the other three species diverged more recently (<2 My). We suggest that Collembola had greater dispersal opportunities under past warmer climates, via flotation along coastal margins. Similarly increased opportunities for dispersal may occur under contemporary climate warming scenarios, which could influence the genetic structure of extant populations. As Collembola are a living record of past landscape evolution within Antarctica, these findings provide biological evidence to support geological and glaciological estimates of historical WAIS dynamics over the last ca. 5 My.


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Authors: Collins, Gemma E., Hogg, Ian D., Convey, Peter ORCIDORCID record for Peter Convey, Sancho, Leopoldo G., Cowan, Don A., Lyons, W. Berry, Adams, Byron J., Wall, Diana H., Green, T.G. Allan

On this site: Peter Convey
24 August, 2020
PNAS / 117
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