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The multilevel organismal diversity approach deciphers difficult to distinguish nudibranch species complex
Korshunova, T.A.; Driessen, F.M.F; Picton, B.E.; Martynov, A.V. (2021). The multilevel organismal diversity approach deciphers difficult to distinguish nudibranch species complex. NPG Scientific Reports 11(1): 18323.
In: Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group). Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 2045-2322; e-ISSN 2045-2322, meer
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Korshunova, T.A.
  • Driessen, F.M.F, meer
  • Picton, B.E., meer
  • Martynov, A.V.


    Species identification is a key procedure for broad-scoped ecological, phylogeographic and evolutionary studies. However, to perform a taxonomic study in the molecular era is a complicated task that has many pitfalls. In the present study we use particular examples of common but difficult to distinguish European species within the genus of Polycera (Nudibranchia, Mollusca) to discuss the general issues of the “cryptic species” problem that has broad biological and interdisciplinary importance and can significantly impede ecological, evolutionary, and other biodiversity-related research. The largest dataset of molecular and morphological information for European nudibranchs ever applied encompasses a wide geographical area and shapes a robust framework in this study. Four species are recognized in the species complex, including a new one. It is shown that a lack of appropriate taxonomic analysis led recently to considerable errors in species identity assessment of this complex. Chromatic polymorphism for each species is mapped in a periodic-like framework and combined with statistical analysis of the diagnostic features that considerably facilitates identification of particular species in the complex for biologists and practitioners. The present study evidently shows that “cryptic” and “non-cryptic” components are present within the same species. Therefore, this species complex is well suited for the exploring and testing of general biological problems. One of the main conclusions of this study is that division of biological diversity into “cryptic” and “non-cryptic” components is counterproductive. We propose that the centralbiological phenomenon of a species can instead be universally designated as multilevel organismal diversity thereby provide a practical set of methods for its investigation.

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