Lymnaeidae snails play a prominent role in the transmission of helminths, mainly trematodes of medical and veterinary importance ( e.g., Fasciola liver flukes). As this family exhibits a great diversity in shell morphology but extremely homogeneous anatomical traits, the systematics of Lymnaeidae has long been controversial. Using the most complete dataset to date, we examined phylogenetic relationships among 50 taxa of this family using a supermatrix approach (concatenation of the 16 S, ITS-1 and ITS-2 genes, representing 5054 base pairs) involving both Maximum Likelihood and Bayesian Inference.
Our phylogenetic analysis demonstrates the existence of three deep clades of Lymnaeidae representing the main geographic origin of species (America, Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific region). This phylogeny allowed us to discuss on potential biological invasions and map important characters, such as, the susceptibility to infection by Fasciola hepatica and F. gigantica, and the haploid number of chromosomes (n). We found that intermediate hosts of F. gigantica cluster within one deep clade, while intermediate hosts of F. hepatica are widely spread across the phylogeny. In addition, chromosome number seems to have evolved from n = 18 to n = 17 and n = 16.
Our study contributes to deepen our understanding of Lymnaeidae phylogeny by both sampling at worldwide scale and combining information from various genes (supermatrix approach). This phylogeny provides insights into the evolutionary relationships among genera and species and demonstrates that the nomenclature of most genera in the Lymnaeidae does not reflect evolutionary relationships. This study highlights the importance of performing basic studies in systematics to guide epidemiological control programs.