16 January 2020
A reliable taxonomy, together with more accurate knowledge of the geographical distribution of species, is a fundamental element for the study of biodiversity. Multiple studies on the gastropod family Neritidae record three species of the genus Neritina in the Brazilian Province: Neritina zebra (Bruguière, 1792), Neritina virginea (Linnaeus, 1758), and Neritina meleagris Lamarck, 1822. While N. zebra has a well-established taxonomic status and geographical distribution, the same cannot be said regarding its congeners. A widely cited reference for the group in Brazil considers N. meleagris a junior synonym of N. virginea . Using a molecular approach (phylogenetic, species delimitation, and statistical parsimony network analyses), based on two mitochondrial markers (COI and 16S), this study investigated if N. virginea and N. meleagris are distinct species. The molecular results confirmed the existence of two strongly supported distinct taxonomic entities in the Brazilian Province, which is consistent with the morphological descriptions previously proposed for N. virginea and N. meleagris . These species occur in sympatry in the intertidal sandstone formations of Northeastern Brazil. Despite the great variation in the colour patterns of the shells, the present study reinforced previous observations that allowed the differentiation of these two species based on these patterns. It also emphasized the importance of the separation of these two clades in future studies, especially those conducted in the Brazilian Province, since these species may cohabit.