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      The legacy of the Crusaders: Complex history of colonization and anthropochory in the land snails Levantina (Gastropoda, Pulmonata) in the Eastern Mediterranean

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      Zoosystematics and Evolution

      Pensoft Publishers

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          Abstract

          The Eastern Mediterranean land snails Levantina display a disjunct distribution spanning the Middle East (Levant), Cyprus, few locations along the Aegean Turkish coast between Bodrum and Datça and on the islands of Rhodes, Karpathos and a few surrounding islets (Dodecanese). These land snails are strictly bound to limestone; shell variability is noticeable with a pair of umbilicate and non-umbilicate forms parapatrically distributed in the Levant and along the Aegean Turkish coast; they overlap on the Dodecanese islands. We sequenced fragments of two mitochondrial genes (Cytochrome Oxidase I and 16S rRNA) from the historical Levantina materials available at the Museums of Hamburg and Berlin. The aim of the study is to explain the current distribution of Levantina in the Eastern Mediterranean in light of an earlier hypothesis suggesting anthropochory due to the movements of Crusaders across the area. The deeper nodes in our phylogeny indicate that Levantina reached the Dodecanese from continental Turkey during the Pliocene exploiting continuity of landmasses. In five circumstances the same haplotype co-occurs on two different islands; one haplotype is shared between one island (Rhodes) and the Levant. We suggest that the movements of Crusaders likely explain the current distribution of haplotypes. In particular, the Knights Hospitaller of St. John occupied Cyprus, the Dodecanese and the facing Turkish coasts for more than two centuries (1306–1522) after they withdrew from Jerusalem in 1187 and from the Levant in 1291. Snails could have been introduced as an item of food or transported with other material including limestone used for building.

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          Most cited references 16

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          Biogeography: molecular trails from hitch-hiking snails.

          Darwin was fascinated by the transportation of land snails across great swathes of open ocean by birds--he even immersed snails in sea water to see how long they would survive. Here we follow a molecular phylogenetic trail that reveals the incredible transequatorial dispersal of the land snail Balea from Europe to the Azores and the Tristan da Cunha islands, and back again. This long-distance dispersal is unexpected for what are proverbially considered the most pedestrian of creatures.
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            Historical biogeography of the land snail Cornu aspersum: a new scenario inferred from haplotype distribution in the Western Mediterranean basin

            Background Despite its key location between the rest of the continent and Europe, research on the phylogeography of north African species remains very limited compared to European and North American taxa. The Mediterranean land mollusc Cornu aspersum (= Helix aspersa) is part of the few species widely sampled in north Africa for biogeographical analysis. It then provides an excellent biological model to understand phylogeographical patterns across the Mediterranean basin, and to evaluate hypotheses of population differentiation. We investigated here the phylogeography of this land snail to reassess the evolutionary scenario we previously considered for explaining its scattered distribution in the western Mediterranean, and to help to resolve the question of the direction of its range expansion (from north Africa to Europe or vice versa). By analysing simultaneously individuals from 73 sites sampled in its putative native range, the present work provides the first broad-scale screening of mitochondrial variation (cyt b and 16S rRNA genes) of C. aspersum. Results Phylogeographical structure mirrored previous patterns inferred from anatomy and nuclear data, since all haplotypes could be ascribed to a B (West) or a C (East) lineage. Alternative migration models tested confirmed that C. aspersum most likely spread from north Africa to Europe. In addition to Kabylia in Algeria, which would have been successively a centre of dispersal and a zone of secondary contacts, we identified an area in Galicia where genetically distinct west and east type populations would have regained contact. Conclusions Vicariant and dispersal processes are reviewed and discussed in the light of signatures left in the geographical distribution of the genetic variation. In referring to Mediterranean taxa which show similar phylogeographical patterns, we proposed a parsimonious scenario to account for the "east-west" genetic splitting and the northward expansion of the western (B) clade which roughly involves (i) the dispersal of ancestral (eastern) types through Oligocene terranes in the Western Mediterranean (ii) the Tell Atlas orogenesis as gene flow barrier between future west and east populations, (iii) the impact of recurrent climatic fluctuations from mid-Pliocene to the last ice age, (iv) the loss of the eastern lineage during Pleistocene northwards expansion phases.
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              Geologically Dated Sea Barriers Calibrate a Protein Clock for Aegean Water Frogs

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Zoosystematics and Evolution
                ZSE
                Pensoft Publishers
                1860-0743
                1435-1935
                April 22 2015
                April 22 2015
                : 91
                : 1
                : 81-89
                Article
                10.3897/zse.91.4693
                © 2015
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