Historical biogeography of the North American glacier ice worm, Mesenchytraeus solifugus (Annelida: Oligochaeta: Enchytraeidae)

C. Roman Dial, Roman J. Dial, Ralph Saunders, Shirley A. Lang, Ben Lee, Peter Wimberger, Megan S. Dinapoli, Alexander S. Egiazarov, Shannon L. Gipple, Melanie R. Maghirang, Daniel J. Swartley-McArdle, Stephanie R. Yudkovitz, Daniel H. Shain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


North American ice worms are the largest glacially-obligate metazoans, inhabiting coastal, temperate glaciers between southcentral Alaska and Oregon. We have collected ice worm specimens from 10 new populations, completing a broad survey throughout their geographic range. Phylogenetic analyses of 87 individuals using fragments of nuclear 18S rRNA, and mitochondrial 12S rRNA and cyctochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (CO1) identified 18 CO1 haplotypes with divergence values up to ∼10%. Phylogeographic interpretations suggest a St. Elias Range, Alaskan ancestry from an aquatic mesenchytraeid oligochaete during the early-Pliocene. A gradual, northward expansion by active dispersal from the central St. Elias clade characterizes a northern clade that is confined to Alaska (with one exception on Vancouver Island, British Columbia), while a distinct southern clade representing worms from British Columbia, Washington and Oregon was likely founded by a passive dispersal event originating from a northern ancestor. The geographic boundary between central and southern clades coincides with an ice worm distribution gap located in southern Alaska, which appears to have restricted active gene flow throughout the species' evolutionary history.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)577-584
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


  • Annelid
  • Evolution
  • Pacific Northwest
  • Psychrophile

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