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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Ancient DNA Resolves the History of Tetragnatha (Araneae, Tetragnathidae) Spiders on Rapa Nui.

  • Author(s): Cotoras, Darko D
  • Murray, Gemma GR
  • Kapp, Joshua
  • Gillespie, Rosemary G
  • Griswold, Charles
  • Simison, W Brian
  • Green, Richard E
  • Shapiro, Beth
  • et al.

Rapa Nui is one of the most remote islands in the world. As a young island, its biota is a consequence of both natural dispersals over the last ~1 million years and recent human introductions. It therefore provides an opportunity to study a unique community assemblage. Here, we extract DNA from museum-preserved and newly field-collected spiders from the genus Tetragnatha to explore their history on Rapa Nui. Using an optimized protocol to recover ancient DNA from museum-preserved spiders, we sequence and assemble partial mitochondrial genomes from nine Tetragnatha species, two of which were found on Rapa Nui, and estimate the evolutionary relationships between these and other Tetragnatha species. Our phylogeny shows that the two Rapa Nui species are not closely related. One, the possibly extinct, T. paschae, is nested within a circumtropical species complex (T. nitens), and the other (Tetragnatha sp. Rapa Nui) appears to be a recent human introduction. Our results highlight the power of ancient DNA approaches in identifying cryptic and rare species, which can contribute to our understanding of the global distribution of biodiversity in all taxonomic lineages.

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