We are progressing towards the goals of the project. Origin of subterranean fauna has ever since establishment of subterranean biology represented continuous enigma for the explorers of the underworld. Through the decades, this question has been answered for numerous subterranean taxa, but some groups are still waiting for the resolvement of their origin. One of a kind is the subterranean amphipod genus Typhlogammarus, whose closest relatives were recognized in the elements of subterranean fauna from the remote Caucasus (more than 2000 km). To answer the question of its origin, we assembled a dataset comprising ca 80 specimens of the focal genus and supplemented it with representatives of closely related genera; Metohia, Accubogammarus, Echinogammarus, Zenkevitchiiia. All the specimens were used to extract DNA and to amplify nuclear and mitochondrial gene fragments, that will be used in phylogenetic analyses.
However, question on the origin of the genus is not the only one we seek to answer. The samples will be used to make a revision of this extraordinary species. Typhlogammarus mrazeki is a monotypic species, meaning the only one of the genus, and the largest among the subterranean amphipods in the Dinaric Karst. In addition, it shows an interesting distribution pattern, being present in the majority of the Dinaric karst, from Gorski kotar in Croatia to lake Skadar in Montenegro. Some of the populations were already recognized as morphologically divergent, and were described as a subspecies (T. m. heteropalpus Karaman 1984), but the subspecies was later omitted. Analyses on other subterranean taxa with similar distribution (Niphargus, Troglocaris) showed existence of cryptic species, species which can not be distinguished without the usage of molecular methods. Operating with knowledge on the usage of molecular methods, freshly collected samples from all over the genus range we declare that if ever, now it’s the time to see what is hiding in our subterranean waters.
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