The processes of vicariance and dispersal are central to our understanding of diversification, yet determining the factors that influence these processes remains a significant challenge in evolutionary biology. Caves offer ideal systems for examining the mechanisms underlying isolation, divergence, and speciation. Intrinsic ecological differences among cavernicolous organisms, such as the degree of cave dependence, are thought to be major factors influencing patterns of genetic isolation in caves. Using a comparative phylogeographic approach, we employed mitochondrial and nuclear markers to assess the evolutionary history of two ecologically distinct groups of terrestrial cave-dwelling springtails (Collembola) in the genera Pygmarrhopalites (Arrhopalitidae) and Pogonognathellus (Tomoceridae) that are codistributed in caves throughout the Salem Plateau—a once continuous karst region, now bisected by the Mississippi River Valley in Illinois and Missouri. Contrasting phylogeographic patterns recovered for troglobiotic Pygmarrhopalites sp. and eutroglophilic Pogonognathellus sp. suggests that obligate associations with cave habitats can restrict dispersal across major geographic barriers such as rivers and valleys, but may also facilitate subterranean dispersal between neighboring cave systems. Pygmarrhopalites sp. populations spanning the Mississippi River Valley were estimated to have diverged 2.9–4.8 Ma, which we attribute to vicariance resulting from climatic and geological processes involved in Mississippi River Valley formation beginning during the late Pliocene/early Pleistocene. Lastly, we conclude that the detection of many deeply divergent, morphologically cryptic, and microendemic lineages highlights our poor understanding of microarthropod diversity in caves and exposes potential conservation concerns.
- Mississippi River
- cryptic diversity
- short-range endemism
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation