Uncovering the shell game with barcodes: diversity of meiofaunal Caecidae snails (Truncatelloidea, Caenogastropoda) from Central America

Caecidae is a species-rich family of microsnails with a worldwide distribution. Typical for many groups of gastropods, caecid taxonomy is largely based on overt shell characters. However, identification of species using shell characteristics is problematic due to their rather uniform, tubular shells, the presence of different growth stages, and a high degree of intraspecific variability. In the present study, a first integrative approach to caecid taxonomy is provided using light-microscopic investigation with microsculptural analyses and multi-marker barcoding, in conjunction with molecular species delineation analyses (ABGD, haplotype networks, GMYC, and bPTP). In total 132 specimens of Caecum and Meioceras collected during several sampling trips to Central America were analyzed and delineated into a minimum of 19 species to discuss putative synonyms, and supplement the original descriptions. Molecular phylogenetic analyses suggest Meioceras nitidum and M. cubitatum should be reclassified as Caecum, and the genus Meioceras might present a junior synonym of Caecum. Meiofaunal caecids morphologically resembling C. glabrum from the Northeast Atlantic are a complex of cryptic species with independent evolutionary origins, likely associated with multiple habitat shifts to the mesopsammic environment. Caecum invisibile Egger & Jörger, sp. nov. is formally described based on molecular diagnostic characters. This first integrative approach towards the taxonomy of Caecidae increases the known diversity, reveals the need for a reclassification of the genus Caecum and serves as a starting point for a barcoding library of the family, thereby enabling further reliable identifications of these taxonomically challenging microsnails in future studies.


DNA taxonomy, marine biodiversity, meiofauna, molecular species delineation, Mollusca

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Egger Christina, Neusser Timea P., Norenburg Jon, Leasi Francesca, Buge Barbara, Vannozzi Angelo, Cunha Regina L., Cox Cymon J., Jörger Katharina M. (2020). Uncovering the shell game with barcodes: diversity of meiofaunal Caecidae snails (Truncatelloidea, Caenogastropoda) from Central America. Zookeys. (968). 1-42. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.968.52986, https://archimer.ifremer.fr/doc/00651/76325/

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