Reproductive isolation and ecological niche partition among larvae of the morphologically cryptic sister species Chironomus riparius and C. piger

  • Background One of the central issues in ecology is the question what allows sympatric occurrence of closely related species in the same general area? The non-biting midges Chironomus riparius and C. piger, interbreeding in the laboratory, have been shown to coexist frequently despite of their close relatedness, similar ecology and high morphological similarity. Methodology/Principal Findings In order to investigate factors shaping niche partitioning of these cryptic sister species, we explored the actual degree of reproductive isolation in the field. Congruent results from nuclear microsatellite and mitochondrial haplotype analyses indicated complete absence of interspecific gene-flow. Autocorrelation analysis showed a non-random spatial distribution of the two species. Though not dispersal limited at the scale of the study area, the sister species occurred less often than expected at the same site, indicating past or present competition. Correlation and multiple regression analyses suggested the repartition of the available habitat along water chemistry gradients (nitrite, conductivity, CaCO3), ultimately governed by differences in summer precipitation regime. Conclusions We show that these morphologically cryptic sister species partition their niches due to a certain degree of ecological distinctness and total reproductive isolation in the field. The coexistence of these species provides a suitable model system for the investigation of factors shaping the distribution of closely related, cryptic species.

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Author:Markus PfenningerORCiDGND, Carsten NowakORCiDGND
Parent Title (English):PLoS One
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2008/05/14
Date of first Publication:2008/05/14
Publishing Institution:Universit├Ątsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2008/11/12
Issue:(5): e2157
Copyright Pfenninger, Nowak. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Source:PLoS ONE. 2008; 3(5): e2157. Published online 2008 May 14. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002157
Institutes:Biowissenschaften / Biowissenschaften
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 57 Biowissenschaften; Biologie / 570 Biowissenschaften; Biologie
Sammlungen:Sammlung Biologie / Sondersammelgebiets-Volltexte
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung 3.0