Mendes, Cecili B., Norenburg, Jon L., Solferini, Vera N. and Andrade, Sónia C. S.
Ototyphlonemertes is a cosmopolitan genus of meiofaunal nemerteans. Their morphological characters are insufficient to reliably identify and delimit species. Consequently, some of the species are considered cosmopolitan despite anticipated low dispersion capability of the adults and a short planktonic larval phase. Indeed, recent studies show that some species actually comprise cryptic species, and populations are connected by stochastic events of long-distance dispersion. Based solely on morphological traits, a Lactea and a Pallida morph of Ototyphlonemertes are recognized here from collections at eight and five locations respectively along the Chilean coast. To assess the phylogeographic patterns of their populations, two mitochondrial markers (COI and COX3) of 162 specimens of Lactea and 25 of Pallida were sequenced. Final sequences are 605bp and 362bp for COI and COX3, respectively. Results from phylogenetic and haplotype network analyses suggest that the Lactea morph comprises up to three independent evolutionary units (one with only COX3 sequences). A COI gene tree including other previously published Ototyphlonemertes sequences groups the Chilean Lactea with other Lactea, while the Chilean Pallida is grouped with other Pallida. Different structuring and gene flow patterns found for the four groups support the hypothesis that these are four independent evolutionary entities with different ecological, dispersal and demographical characteristics.