Cryptic speciation in a biodiversity hotspot: multilocus molecular data reveal new velvet worm species from Western Australia (Onychophora : Peripatopsidae : Kumbadjena)
School of Natural Sciences
There is a yet uncovered multitude of species to be found among Western Australian Onychophora. Kumbadjena, one of the two genera that reside in this region, has been previously suggested to house an extensive species complex. Morphology alone has not been able to elucidate the diversity in this genus and has instead muddled species delineations. Topologies and species delimitation analyses resulting from the sequences of two mitochondrial ribosomal markers (12S rRNA and 16S rRNA), one nuclear ribosomal marker (18S rRNA), and one mitochondrial protein-coding gene (cytochrome c oxidase subunit I) are indicative of several undescribed species. Fixed diagnostic nucleotide changes in the highly conserved sequences of 18S rRNA warrant distinction of three new species of Kumbadjena: K. toolbrunupensis, sp. nov., K. karricola, sp. nov., and K. extrema, sp. nov. The geographic distributions of the proposed species suggest that Kumbadjena is another example of short-range endemism, a common occurrence in the flora and fauna of the region. The extensive biodiversity and endemism in the region necessitates conservation to preserve the species and processes that promote speciation harboured by Western Australia.