Molecular approaches to explore species diversity and connectivity in post-glacial lakes, Ponto-Caspian region and the deep sea
I started my science career as a molecular ecologist and taxonomist. For my PhD I studied the diversity and zoogeography of mysid crustaceans in post-glacial lakes of Northern Europe and in the Caspian Sea. The inland brackish water Caspian Sea has many species that are related to the “glacial relicts” found in the Northern European lakes. What are the ancient connections that linked these currently separated basins?
The connections between the Ponto-Caspian and Baltic Sea basins continue into these days, but now through the invasive species spreading from the Ponto-Caspian northwards. I used molecular markers to explore invasion routes and origins of some of these species.
I then continued my research at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (www.mbari.org), studying diversity and connectivity of vesicomyidae clams in “cold seeps” deep sea environment. These clams harbour symbiotic sulphur oxidising bacteria, allowing them to “feed” on hydrogen sulphide deposits (they do stink!). The most amazing thing however is their extreme levels of species diversity, combined with extreme levels of connectivity across the entire Pacific Ocean. While one could find several species in one “cold seep” near Monterey, populations of one species from Japan and California coasts could also harbour identical mitochondrial COI haplotypes. So how did all this species diversity arouse? What were the speciation drivers? There are still many mysteries to solve in the last frontiers of the exploration on Earth. Here is an example of a cruise to study one of the clam reefs.
I still maintain interest in these questions and even have a dataset for a project on deep sea clam population genetics. So please contact me, if you are interested.
Audzijonyte A, Krylova EM, Sahling H, Vrijenhoek RC (2012) Molecular taxonomy reveals broad trans-oceanic distributions and high species diversity of deep-sea clams (Bivalvia: Vesicomyidae: Pliocardiinae) in chemosynthetic environments. Systematics and Biodiversity 10:4, 403-415
Audzijonyte A, Vrijenhoek RC (2010) When gaps really are gaps: statistical phylogeography of hydrothermal vent invertebrates. Evolution 64: 2369-2384
Audzijonyte A, Wittmann KJ, Ovcarenko I, Väinölä R (2009) Invasion phylogeography of the Ponto-Caspian crustacean Limnomysis benedeni dispersing across Europe. Diversity and Distributions 15: 346-355
Audzijonyte A, Wittmann KJ, Väinölä R (2008) Tracing recent invasions of the Ponto-Caspian mysid shrimp Hemimysis anomala across Europe and to North America with mitochondrial DNA. Diversity and Distributions 14: 179-186
Audzijonyte A, Väinölä R (2006) Phylogeographic analyses of a circumarctic coastal and a boreal lacustrine mysid crustacean, and evidence of fast post-glacial mtDNA rates. Molecular Ecology 15: 3287-3301
Audzijonyte A, Daneliya ME, Väinölä R (2006) Comparative phylogeography of Ponto-Caspian mysid crustaceans: isolation and exchange among dynamic inland sea basins. Molecular Ecology 15: 2969-2984
Audzijonyte A, Väinölä R (2005) Diversity and distributions of circumpolar fresh- and brackish-water Mysis (Crustacea: Mysida): descriptions of M. relicta Lovén, 1862, M. salemaai n. sp., M. segerstralei n. sp. and M. diluviana n. sp., based on molecular and morphological characters. Hydrobiologia 544: 89-141