Evaluation of eDNA for groundwater invertebrate detection and monitoring: a case study with endangered Stygobromus (Amphipoda: Crangonyctidae)
In the last decade, several studies have shown that subterranean aquatic habitats harbor cryptic species with restricted geographic ranges, frequently occurring as isolated populations. Previous studies on aquatic subterranean species have implied that habitat heterogeneity can promote speciation and that speciation events can be predicted from species' distributions. We tested the prediction that species distributed across different drainage systems and karst sectors comprise sets of distinct species. Amphipods from the genus Niphargus from 11 caves distributed along the Western Carpathians (Romania) were investigated using three independent molecular markers (COI, H3 and 28S). The results showed that: 1) the studied populations belong to eight different species that derive from two phylogenetically unrelated Niphargus clades; 2) narrow endemic species in fact comprise complexes of morphologically similar species that are indistinguishable without using a molecular approach. The concept of monophyly, concordance between mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, and the value of patristic distances were used as species delimitation criteria. The concept of cryptic species is discussed within the framework of the present work and the contribution of these species to regional biodiversity is also addressed.