Articles | Volume 7, issue 11
Research article
03 Nov 2010
Research article |  | 03 Nov 2010

Testing the spatial and temporal framework of speciation in an ancient lake species flock: the leech genus Dina (Hirudinea: Erpobdellidae) in Lake Ohrid

S. Trajanovski, C. Albrecht, K. Schreiber, R. Schultheiß, T. Stadler, M. Benke, and T. Wilke

Abstract. Ancient Lake Ohrid on the Balkan Peninsula is considered to be the oldest ancient lake in Europe with a suggested Plio-/Pleistocene age. Its exact geological age, however, remains unknown. Therefore, molecular clock data of Lake Ohrid biota may serve as an independent constraint of available geological data, and may thus help to refine age estimates. Such evolutionary data may also help unravel potential biotic and abiotic factors that promote speciation events.

Here, mitochondrial sequencing data of one of the largest groups of endemic taxa in the Ohrid watershed, the leech genus Dina, is used to test whether it represents an ancient lake species flock, to study the role of potential horizontal and vertical barriers in the watershed for evolutionary events, to estimate the onset of diversification in this group based on molecular clock analyses, and to compare this data with data from other endemic species for providing an approximate time frame for the origin of Lake Ohrid.

Based on the criteria speciosity, monophyly and endemicity, it can be concluded that Dina spp. from the Ohrid watershed, indeed, represents an ancient lake species flock. Lineage sorting of its species, however, does not seem to be complete and/or hybridization may occur. Analyses of population structures of Dina spp. in the Ohrid watershed indicate a horizontal zonation of haplotypes from spring and lake populations, corroborating the role of lake-side springs, particularly the southern feeder springs, for evolutionary processes in endemic Ohrid taxa. Vertical differentiation of lake taxa, however, appears to be limited, though differences between populations from the littoral and the profundal are apparent. Molecular clock analyses indicate that the most recent common ancestor of extant species of this flock is approximately 1.99 ± 0.83 million years (Ma) old, whereas the split of the Ohrid Dina flock from a potential sister taxon outside the lake is estimated at 8.30 ± 3.60 Ma. Comparisons with other groups of endemic Ohrid species indicated that in all cases, diversification within the watershed started ≤2 Ma ago. Thus, this estimate may provide information on a minimum age for the origin of Lake Ohrid. Maximum ages are less consistent and generally less reliable. But cautiously, a maximum age of 3 Ma is suggested. Interestingly, this time frame of approximately 2–3 Ma ago for the origin of Lake Ohrid, generated based on genetic data, well fits the time frame most often used in the literature by geologists.

Final-revised paper