Left in the cold? Evolutionary origin of Laternula elliptica a keystone bivalve species of Antarctic benthos
The large, burrowing bivalve Laternula elliptica is an abundant component of shallow-water soft-substrate communities around Antarctica but its congeners are temperate and tropical in distribution and their phylogenetic relationships are obscure. A new molecular analysis of Laternulidae species shows that there are two distinct clades, one of Exolaternula species, E. spengleri and E. liautaudi, possessing a ligamental lithodesma and a larger clade of species lacking the lithodesma. Of the latter, Laternula elliptica is a sister taxon to temperate and tropical species, including those that live around the coasts of Australia from Tasmania to Darwin. It is suggested that L. elliptica was left isolated around Antarctica following the opening of the Tasman Gateway and initiation of the Circum-Antarctic Current as Australia drifted northwards following the final breakup of Gondwana. A further scenario is that as Australia moved closer to Asia, species spread into tropical habitats and more widely to the Red Sea and Japan. Exolaternula species have a likely Tethyan origin and the present-day range is from the Arabian Gulf, around southern Asia and as far north as southern Russia.
Authors: Taylor, John. D, Glover, Emily A., Harper, Elizabeth M., Crame, J. Alistair ORCID record for J. Alistair Crame, Ikebe, Chiho, Williams, Suzanne T.