Pyganodon (Bivalvia: Unionoida: Unionidae) phylogenetics: a male- and female-transmitted mitochondrial DNA perspective.
ABSTRACT Species boundaries, evolutionary relationships and geographic distributions of many unionoid bivalve species, like those in the genus Pyganodon, remain unresolved in Eastern North America. Because unionoid bivalves are one of the most imperiled groups of animals in the world, understanding the genetic variation within and among populations as well as among species is crucial for effective conservation planning. Conservation of unionoid species is indispensable from a freshwater habitat perspective but also because they possess a unique mitochondrial inheritance system where distinct gender-associated mitochondrial DNA lineages coexist: a female-transmitted (F) mt genome and a male-transmitted (M) mt genome that are involved in the maintenance of separate sexes (=dioecy). In this study, 42 populations of Pyganodon sp. were sampled across a large geographical range and fragments of two mitochondrial genes (cox1 and cox2) were sequenced from both the M- and F-transmitted mtDNA genomes. Our results support the recency of the divergence between P. cataracta and P. fragilis. We also found two relatively divergent F and M lineages within P. grandis. Surprisingly, the relationships among the P. grandis specimens in the F and M sequence trees are not congruent. We found that a single haplotype in P. lacustris has recently swept throughout the M genotype space leading to an unexpectedly low diversity in the M lineage in that species. Our survey put forward some challenging results that force us to rethink hybridization and species boundaries in the genus Pyganodon. As the M and F genomes do not always display the same phylogeographic story in each species, we also discuss the importance of being careful in the interpretation of molecular data based solely on maternal transmitted mtDNA genomes. The involvement of F and M genomes in unionoid bivalve sex determination likely played a role in the genesis of the unorthodox phylogeographic patterns reported herein.