An investigation, led by Chilean scientists, found new genetic information of a mollusk that lives in the extreme south of the planet. The works were published in the journals Polar Biology and Scientific Report.
Andrea Navarro, IDEAL Center. It mainly inhabits the rocky coasts of the Subantarctic and Antarctic environments. As an adult it can measure up to 7 millimeters and, by growing in the form of a cluster, it is capable of providing shelter to various marine organisms. Kidderia is an incubating microbivalve considered a true ecosystem engineer.
Despite the fact that it is one of the most distributed general in the Antarctic Peninsula, to date the information about its distribution and genetics was scarce. To fill this gap, a recent investigation by the IDEAL Center of the Austral University of Chile (UACh) focused on a description of Kidderia species, as a model to understand the historic connectivity between Patagonia and the white continent.
The scientific work, published in the prestigious magazine Scientific Report, began with a collection of samples from Isla Doumer (Yelcho Base.) Later, specimens were extracted from the Signy, Penguin, King George, Greenwich, Deception and Livingston islands, which aroused interest in understanding the evolutionary history of the small mollusk. This is how the study was extended to subantarctic areas: Patagonia, Falkland and Kerguelen. The species found were subjected to a review of historical literature and, subsequently, the identification was complemented with various genetic analyzes, in which multiple molecular markers were used.
On the other hand, the results published in Polar Biology revealed the finding of at least two Kidderia species in the Southern Ocean. The subantarctic species corresponds to Kidderia minuta and the Antarctic species to Kidderia subquadrata.
In a context in which Patagonia and the Antarctic Peninsula share great biological diversity, the work shows that, in this group, diversification occurs in accordance with the geological and climatic history of the area, that is, there was a first stage of isolation associated with the separation of the continents leaving two species.
“”Nowadays, the use of genetics in non-model organisms is being of great help to understand, complement and reevaluate the evolutionary history, especially of those that inhabit the Southern Ocean. Progress depends clearly on the sampling effort towards areas of limited access and international collaboration, which was fundamental for the results achieved in this study,” assures the biochemist of the UACh and co-author of the scientific work, Daniela Levicoy.
In the phylogeographic study of Kidderia subquadrata, the team of scientists identified a local and more recent process of diversification, strongly influenced by local currents.
“This work reveals the need to assess the biodiversity of the Southern Ocean species, a preliminary and much-needed step to understand the biogeographic patterns and the history of diversification of Antarctic species and their relationship with Patagonia,” says Dr. Leyla Cárdenas, researcher at the IDEAL Center, dean of the Faculty of Sciences of the UACh and co-author of the study.