Punctuated invasion of water, ice, snow and terrestrial ecozones by segmented worms (Oligochaeta: Enchytraeidae: Mesenchytraeus)

Shirley A. Lang, Naim Saglam, Joseph Kawash, Daniel H. Shain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Segmented worms (Annelida) are among the most successful animal inhabitants of extreme environments worldwide. An unusual group of enchytraeid oligochaetes of genus Mesenchytraeus are abundant in the Pacific northwestern region of North America and occupy geographically proximal ecozones ranging from low elevation rainforests and waterways to high altitude glaciers. Along this altitudinal transect, Mesenchytraeus representatives from disparate habitat types were collected and subjected to deep mitochondrial and nuclear phylogenetic analyses. Our data identify significant topological discordance among gene trees, and near equivalent interspecific divergence levels indicative of a rapid radiation event. Collectively, our results identify a Mesenchytraeus ‘explosion’ coincident with mountain building in the Pacific northwestern region that gave rise to closely related aquatic, ice, snow and terrestrial worms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20171081
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1864
StatePublished - Oct 11 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • Adaptive
  • Annelid
  • Discordance
  • Evolution
  • Glacier


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